Casting off stereotypes
Their participation in the Hangzhou Summit also gave the African journalists a chance to talk about their own countries and dispel the negative stereotypes created by the Western media. Many of them were interviewed by the Chinese media and talked about the cultural heritages of their countries, progress and security.
“Ebola affected Guinea’s economy for some time but that was not the end of everything,” said Kamano, referring to the outbreak of the disease in West Africa in 2013. “We are going back to normal. Guinea is rich in mineral wealth, we have bauxite, iron, gold and diamond. We also have oil. We are rebuilding our economy and we appreciate the help China gave us to control the outbreak [of the epidemic]. Many other countries helped too, but China was the first to respond.”
Belayneh Bahiru Uma from the Ethiopian News Agency said his country Ethiopia is poles apart from how it is perceived. “People think of Ethiopia as a land of famine,” he said. “This is the image they have from old history stereotypes. Actually, Ethiopia is the fastestgrowing country in Africa. For the last 13 years we have had double-digit growth varying between 10 and 13 percent. The government has implemented specific programs to alleviate famine and poverty. Ethiopian women are highly educated. In primary schools, girls’ enrollment rate is 100 percent. In high schools it is 40 percent and the government is working to increase it to 100 percent by 2020.”
Ethiopian society, he said, is highly integrated. “The population consists almost equally of Christians and Muslims and they live, eat and celebrate together. Ethiopia is a highly tolerant society where different sects and communities live in complete harmony.”
Yemane Haile Ghebrekidan from the Eritrean News Agency said though Eritrea lived through an armed struggle for almost 30 years, it remains a very hospitable society with high security. “There is no crime,” he emphasized. “You can be out the whole night and you will be safe. If you leave your wallet and phone in a restaurant, you will get them back the next day. This is something deeply rooted in the culture.”
The African journalists also said their stay and travels through China had also dispelled their preconceived image of it being a poor country with a teeming population. They said they were amazed by the infrastructure and other signs of development they saw.
“China has faced big challenges to bring development for its 1.3 billion people,” said Kamano. “We will do it ourselves in the next 10 years and we want to see how they did it. There is still poverty in China but when the leaders say they have a plan to eradicate poverty, they mean it.” Ghebrekidan’s interest lies in the philosophy behind this development. “It will contribute to a more clear vision of the future for all,” he said. (Reporting from Hangzhou) Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org