7 Effective Ways to Read and Understand African Political News

Whether you are an African expatriate hoping to stay in touch with what is going on in your home country, a potential tourist hoping to do research on the best place to visit, a political student striving to understand the development in Africa, or simply well-wisher dedicated to unload of few bucks to chip in the aid for Africa, translating the information you read into valuable knowledge is an important task

Like any other continent, Africa offers a set of complex realities that can offer conflicting outcome for the party interested; moreover, accessing the information you need is not always evident between the information you look for, and the information you find.

Below is a short description of criteria to consider when reading or researching news on Africa. While the list is not exclusive, and can certainly be extended, I believe this initial guidepost may help. Feel free to add or consider additional helpful points.

1. Consider the source of the information

Africa is a very complex place, that combines many world and realities, the gap between the rich and the poor creates in many places two different societies whose world rarely collide. For that reason, news sources are often tailored to one group or the other.

Understanding the source of the information will help you assess the legitimacy of the information you have. For example, is it a local or foreign news source? Foreign sources often have greater access to political circles because the government is more concerned about the way it is portrayed to the outside world; however, foreign sources rarely give you the real pulse of the nation. If the source is local, consider the accreditation that is reflected by interviews or first hand accounts. In Africa, Official news is often given unofficially, while official news is a front. That means that those sources that have close access to the government are more likely to give credible news, compare to unaccredited sources to whom is given generic news. (More on it further down)

2. Try to capture the perspective of the information

In Africa, the freedom of the press is not a sacred duty, and as mentioned above, free and transparent news are not evident. As a result, news often reflects the perspective of the source. The information you will get is based on the perception of the source. In the West, Africa is widely primarily viewed as a continent ravaged by war and diseases, where impoverished people and government are struggling very hard to survive, and thus their lives and activities are geared toward Help and how the global community can help them. As a result, most African news coming from the West will treat topics such as aid, sanction, peace and war, and oil discovery. Human rights, rigged election and corruption are other subjects often treated; in other words, Western media tend to chronicle Africa’s efforts to “join” or emulate them.

When it comes to local media and news sources, the dilemma is different. Elite and well positioned news sources depicts the political life of the country, meaning that their news are mostly geared toward accounts of big political activities, such as Presidential travels and visits, opposition complaints, foreign investment, dignitaries visits, Diaspora news and international events in which the government participate. In short, those news sources attempts to present information from the perception of Africa to the rest of the world.

Finally, local media perception is often directed at the local population, therefore offers information on issue that matters to locals; energy and gas issues, employment, government promises kept or not, education, political freedom, cultural and social safeguard, etc…

3. Acknowledge the Biases

In the U.S, it is often assumed that CNN is Pro-democrats, and Fox News is a Republican arm, regardless if true or not, that perception is very present in Africa as well; not in form of Republican or democrats of course, but they still play a short role.

From the day of colonization, Western Nations had strategic interests in Africa, and Political propaganda has insured that many Westerners view some African countries internal policies as beneficial or threatening to their way of life.

If your African news information is from a Western source, always consider the position of your country with the African country you are researching. Popular opinion is critical and very few Western media will say nice things about the Zimbabwe government for example. Western media will offer news based on the national interest of their home country. You will rarely read negative report about the Egyptian Government that has good relations with Washington, although it is not a beacon of Democracy, yet Zimbabwe, which has been a torn in their side, is demonized. This is not an attempt to justify the evil of some people, but it is worth considering that Western media will report information according to the way they wish a certain country to be viewed.

If you wish to avoid the biases of Western news outlet, you are better off searching for African news by African news outlets. There again, there is an often bias between Pro and anti government. Some news sources are government sponsored, while other are dedicated to discredit the government regardless of good deeds or not. In Africa the contrast is usually very strong, as you can read full articles of “official” news feed that praises the government unashamedly, while others are almost littered with insults. Very rarely will you find news source that are impartial, and it is usually very evident to distinguish the sources political leanings.

Given the polarity of African societies, and the actuality of International Relations, one must not look at news Biases with pure disgust, but as a component and vital actor of global politics; filling between diverse biases can actually help uncover valuable information. But in case it doesn’t help, always consider independent news and…

4. Identify the agendas

If for some reasons you are unable to filter official and supposedly professional news sources, do make use of independent news sources such as NGO’s and Think Tank. Because they are usually unaffiliated with any government, and their work is mainly based on empirical data and research, NGO and Think Tank do paint an educated and comprehensive picture of what is going on in Africa. Most of their works are expanded toward a wide range of subjects that reflects a non-partial view of government activities, social realities and international implications.

If you obtain your news via NGOs or Think Tanks, you are most likely to have access to strong data, depending on the Think Tank, and hard core evidence of what is going on in the country you research.

The only problem presented by NGOs and Think Tanks is that they do have an agenda. The nature of their strong work is usually motivated by the mission to influence or advice a government to act toward an issue they view as important. Because of that agenda, those organizations often accentuate an issue to the point where it overshadows others, making it look like an exaggeration.

For example if an NGO has for agenda to reduce arm trafficking in Africa, their information may offer solid leads on the pulse of a country, with credible evidence; however, their extensive research on the impact of arm trafficking may minimize other positive information, to the point of giving the impression that you can buy Ak47 at a candy store. This of course is not with the intent to deceive or dramatize, but with the objective of using the data to convince world powers to act on arms trafficking.

If you know how to extract your information from those sources, they are an excellent balance to local and international news.

5. Check the blogs

Africa sends millions of its bright Sons and Daughters abroad to study in higher education, and loses other millions professionals in search of a better living. While the damages of this brain drain are considerable, the attachment all those Africans retain for their homeland represents a glimpse of hope.

Since they cannot directly be involve in official affairs in their home countries because of the distance or political threats, many member of the African Diaspora voice their opinions in blogs or personal websites.

The advantage of reading those opinionated blogs is that it offers a personal touch and reaction to all the other news you may have read.

Many are very knowledgeable in what they are writing, and approach it in a very professional way. They are not constrained by editorial control, so are free to give their honest, educated opinion on what they read, heard or experienced in and out of Africa.

If they are not that knowledgeable on African affairs anymore, many still have families abroad who can give them first account to report on what is happening.

Because they are so many blogs related to Africa, you can not only compare information and news, but also engage the writers and have a better feel on how and where they get to say what they are saying.

For most people, this is a valuable source, because on top of general political views, they can offer a personal one, as well as giving an insight on how and where people live their everyday, not to mention, where the hotspots are.

The disadvantage of Blogs is that it is after all just personal opinions, and personal opinions can be motivated or inspired by perception, Bias, and /or agenda. It is not uncommon for exile politicians to mount an opposition from abroad, something blogs tend to make easier, so caution is advised for that reason.

6. Search for supportive news

Every news agency is in search of a scoop, and none wants to be left out of considerable information.

Whenever you stumble on interesting information for your research, after identifying the source, always make sure to search if that information is reprised by other news outlets.

When it comes to Africa, it is very common for news to be generalizing, but if you feel you came across useful information, always double check if you can locate it in other Western sources (if those where your primary sources), and then in local African sources. Check in Blogs and social sites if it is being discussed, or better create a new discussion.

The fact of the matter is that if you are looking for information on Africa, the complexity of its state does not favor taking any information at face value, but insuring that it is shared, discussed and not hostage to any perception and bias will help you have good grip on what is going on.

7. Use common sense

In Politics like in everything, things happen for a reason, from a coup d’Etat, to a social uprising, and political instability to international sanction.

Africa is not another planet we know nothing about, and it did not appear without a past or history.

In everything you read or learn about Africa, consider the context and remember history. Famine and poverty did not come suddenly; wars all have a spark plug, poor countries should not be able to buy weapons they do not manufacture.

The context and the historical reality that today links nearly all countries on Earth presents the fertile ground on how you will receive the news you receive, they way you receive it.

Knowledge is a light to which is drawn a bug called interest, and common sense should help you navigate the waves of misinformation toward the land of comprehension of the subject you research.

As mentioned, this is a list that can be extended and perfected, but for all who have at one point or another, read African news or wanted to understand what is going in Africa, I hope that little list will be helpful the next time it happens.

Over-reliance on popular media is like over relying in anything, it cripples one’s ability, and dilutes the quality of the need sought.

Stay thirsty for knowledge; you might very well quench your thirst yourself.

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News in Touch

News is essential to be in touch with the latest happenings in the world. Unfortunately news has become something unreliable as a result of biased information presented by broadcasting co-operations and news service providers but it is important to be aware about updates in the world we live in. It may seem overwhelming at times but being informed with the current events around the world would help you to be on top of things wherever you are.

News provide the latest information about current affairs that occur politically; technologically as well as in business and we must consider ourselves as privileged to be educated about them at present unlike the ancient days where global information was the least available. In general, people in all walks of life read news and everyone have their own desired category to read. Whatever your interest maybe, it is important to be educated about the current activities that happen around the globe and maybe beyond. As a younger reader, news feeds in Twitter, Facebook or Perez Hilton would find very interesting, but these do not provide the general knowledge which is part of education. Therefore you need to be informed about all extents; no matter you are young or old.

Think about the world leaders. How many of the names of the world’s presidents or prime ministers are you aware of? If you know it all, you are well updated but if you are not, it is time to read. Understanding about the society that you live in and the societies around the world are significant as we are living in a globalized village.

Haven’t you felt clueless about your surroundings when you return home after a long holiday? Similarly you would feel ill-informed about the affairs around the world without making yourself educated about the news. Of course, it is not as easy as it sounds and would be the most uninteresting toil to sit at one place and read news but today the option of reading news online on desktop, laptop or even on mobile phone is available.

Newspaper companies have enabled their news to be read online but they are updated instantly. However, the latest news can be attained through news aggregators who are available online on the internet. A news aggregator is a web application which aggregates syndicated web content such as news headlines, blogs, podcasts and video blogs that arise globally within one site for easy and quick viewing. Online aggregators provide up to date information on various categories such as business, technology, entertainment, politics, travel, health, world news and many more where interesting and useful information on every topic is available. This helps to be in touch with all latest affairs at one place at one time as and when it happens.

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FOREX Education – Want to Win? Don’t Pay Attention To The News!

The rise of the internet has seen more news and FOREX education than ever before become available to traders and it’s available instantly, but it won’t help you make money.

In fact if you try and trade by utilizing news stories you will lose and a simple fact will explain why:

Fact:

Consider this:

50 years ago around 90% of traders lost all their money and this figure remains the same today 90%.

This is despite the huge range of new tools and breaking online news that is available to help traders – the ratio still remains the same.

The reason for this is an important part of your FOREX education:

Markets move to the following equation

Market fundamentals + Investor Perception = Price movement.

We all see the news but it is the way all the investors interpret it that is important.

The market is a discounting mechanism and all the news instantly is reflected in the fundamentals.

If you see experts talking on the TV or writing stories, then this information is discounted – The arguments may sound convincing, but that is what the media does sell stories.

The experts who put out stories are not traders and their more often than not dead wrong.

If it was easy to trade off news stories, a lot more traders would make money and the fact is they don’t.

By listening to the news and acting upon it you will lose.

Let’s go back to the equation:

Market fundamentals + Investor perception = Price movement

As the market is instantly discounting news we can simply assume all fundamentals and news is instantly reflected in price action.

All you need to do is follow price action and focus on investor perception of the fundamentals.

This makes a technical approach ignoring the news the best way to trade the markets.

As investor psychology is constant, repetitive chart patterns can be spotted and acted upon.

If you try and use the news you will simply lose.

Consider the fact that markets collapse when the fundamentals are most bullish and rally when they are most bearish and you will see that trying to act of the news is a waste of time.

How many times do you see a market ignore the news and go the other way?

It happens all the time.

Will Rogers famously said:

“I only believe what I read in the papers”

He was joking, but many FOREX traders actually do believe what they read and think they can trade off it and lose.

The market is a discounting mechanism and trying to trade off news stories will most likely see you fail.

So if you want to make money trading FOREX keep in mind this important bit of FOREX Education

Understand the past, think in the present and look to the future.

You can do this by simply following technical analysis and see future trend changes people listening to the news will never see.

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Media Versus Educational Institutions

Many things have been said about media, its relation with education and the institutions of education, as well as co-action between them. But the point which has been rarely and scarcely stressed upon, and requires to be emphasized with the force and vigour it deserves, is that the media by itself is the most powerful medium of education at large. When I talk about media, I mean it to be inclusive of both the print-media and electronic media. There is an umbilical relation between the media and educational institutions, as both are deeply correlated, collateral as well as complementary to each other.

Education on Air

So far as the print-media (news papers/magazines/periodicals/journals) is concerned, it has, somehow, been playing its role in educating the people positively to some extent, but unfortunately, the electronic media (radio, television etc.,) is not delivering the goods in this respect. Being a medium of infotainment, it is, in fact, supposed to be a means of not merely educating the masses on a much wider scale, but also a tool of promoting and developing the national ethos, culture, moral values, ethics and social manners on the nation-wide scale.

Media is the most powerful instrument of not only spreading, inculcating and ingraining the values and traditions among our new generation, but also strengthening them in the mindset of the old one. It is the government’ responsibility to use electronic media for the above-mentioned purposes and it has the powers, necessary resources and machinery to do so, but, alas, it has, until now, failed to take any concrete step in the direction. Government is therefore well-advised to press its machinery to use the centrally-administered media as a tool to provide education on air.

Media’s role compared with formal Institutions of Educations

It is an irrefutable fact that the media can prove an effective and useful tool in providing education to the masses. In this respect, media’s role starts exactly from where the role being played by the formal institutions such as schools, colleges and universities comes to an end. The media has not merely an obligation to inform the people what has happened, and what is happening in the surroundings, in the society, across the country and around the world, but it has also a bounden duty to enlighten the masses what actually must have been there and, in deed, what now must be there under the sky.

Art, Culture and Literature

The media has another function to perform and that is to take care of social manners and ethical values among the people, to preserve and promote them besides developing indigenous art, culture and literature.

A few words about literature: whatever is written is simply defined as literature. However, whatever is written with an accuracy of the language and punctuation of the grammar is, by definition, termed to be the “classic literature,” whereas whatever is printed, published, broadcast and telecast by the print-electronic media is nothing but the “literature in haste.” And this exactly is the domain of media.

Reverse Gear

Now the question arises what is the media doing now-a-days? Hasn’t it put the vehicle on the reverse gear and isn’t driving it in quite opposite direction? Is the media playing its role, doing its functions in any respect honestly and sincerely? Is it delivering the goods in letters and in spirit? The answer is, alas, a horrible “No.”

It is extremely deplorable, disappointing and sorry state affairs to see that in the name of art and culture, the Western art and culture are being promoted and boosted, and on the contrary, the indigenous arts and cultures, are, unfortunately, being weakened and relegated day by day, throwing the young generation straightaway into the “lap of the Western Culture” on a wholesale scale.

Failure of the Educational System

The role being played by our formal educational establishments is even worse. Our system of education is still based on some elements of the British policy- getting rid of which the sooner, is the better because they are, on the one hand, laying negative and harmful impact on the emerging talents of our promising students and on the other, extirpating the very roots of Indian culture. Despite having gained geo-political freedom, we are yet to be able to get ourselves released from the yoke of mental- intellectual bondage of our Anglo-American masters in certain spheres of life, especially in economy, science and technology. In the name of imparting education, our students are virtually made “the book-addicts”, rather turned into the “book-worms.” Instead of pushing ahead and encouraging them to pursue and develop their instinctively creative talents and skills, the students are, unfortunately, being encouraged to strictly go by the books from the beginning to the end, throughout their lives. Main emphasis is on theory and not on practice.

Consequently, now the nation India can boast of producing the best “imitators” in almost every sphere of life but is not in a position to proudly claim to have produced any original thinkers and scientists except Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, S.Chandrashekher, Hargobind Khurana, Amartya Sen, Venkatramana Ramakrshnan and a few other exceptions in recent history. Even a handful of those born with inner creative talents and high skills, are compelled to go abroad due to the lack of necessary facilities, proper incentives, lucrative compensations and encouragement in the country. In the field of science and technology, we are still dependent on the highly developed Western nations to a large extent, and India’s glory has been lost somewhere in the dustbin of history.

Total Overhauling needed

Unless the whole structure of the polity, which has been reduced to an abominably, abhorrently stinking rot, is overhauled and restructured, policies putting the educational system on a sound footing, and guiding the media towards its real functions, are framed afresh and implemented vigorously and vehemently, as well as suitable amendments are incorporated in the relevant portions of the Constitution in order to enact and enforce necessary laws for the purposes, the situation will not improve and India will not emerge as a totally free and independent nation in every field of life, in the truest sense of the term. In respect of media, it is more essential and imperative, especially in view of the growing greed to earn as much money as possible, even if it is at the expense of the barest minimum requisites of the common people. That the greed has overshadowed the super values and lofty human sentiments of love, affection, compassion, sympathy, honesty, sincerity and above all — the spirit of sacrifice — has been brought to the fore by the greedy, selfish and self-serving T.V. journalists/photographers, who, while reporting, always tend to prefer capturing images of even the bleeding and dying persons attacked by miscreants or injured in road accidents, to going to their rescue. An instance pointing out to the bitter truth was reported from Chennai, where a police officer attacked while on his motorbike by unidentified assailants, bled to death because of delayed medical attention on January 8, 2010. A convoy of ministers passed by, stopped, looked at the sub-inspector of Tamil Nadu police, R. Vetrivel lay profusely bleeding on the road, and simply passed off. None of them felt it necessary to take any action. On the other hand, a T.V. cameraman was so keen to capture the images that he, too, did not consider it necessary to take trouble of going to his aid.

The images were flashed by several TV news channels including 9 O’CLOCK NEWS. Although, the channels’ aim was to wag a finger at the ministers, who impotently stood around doing nothing, the same charge could be leveled on the cameraman, who was busy filming the scene, instead of rushing the man to the hospital. However, we can put the same question to ourselves; how many times do we stop when we witness a road accident? Is it fair on our part to be quick to shake our heads at the ministers, when many of us might not have stopped for any Vetrivel either? What does such an occasion demand from a journalist, who happens to be a human being? Should he shoot the event and pass off or physically intervene in it?

Arguments or Lame Excuses?

Argument goes like this that journalists’ job is just to report what happens, as clearly as possible. The journalist is like a doctor in the emergency room, strictly in accordance with one analogy- one that is iconic given the images of dying Vetrivel. One sees a lot of suffering, but it is more important to put one’s feeling aside and just work on the story. Many journalists, the world over-feel, think and act in the same fashion – especially those covering wars and unprecedented disasters. A journalist should never forget that he is a human being first and a professional last. Apart from reason and intellect, super human sentiments of love, mercy, sympathy, mutual consideration and cooperation, going to the rescue of helpless and extending a helping hand to the needy in distress, are the attributes that distinguish human beings from animals, and human nature demands that these qualities should never, in any case, be dominated by greed to earn money at the cost of lives, and the selfish urge to go ahead in the race of sweeping into the net all sorts of comfort and luxury of mundane life for the sake of the self and kith and kin, pushing behind, and sometimes, treading over others in the race.

Ruthless Machines

The tremendous greed for money has virtually turned the professionals into the “ruthless machines,” and journalists are no exception. By preferring to capture footages, the T.V. photographer, in fact, proved his mercilessness. It is, of course, the economic conditions that determine how images are produced and broadcast for the viewers.

We are so accustomed to having our television journalists dramatize the news, and act like drama-mongers that they have lost our trust. Almost every televised event seems like infotainment, a soap opera, or trick for ratings. In this context, it is very difficult not to see almost every thing the news media does with an intensely suspicious eye. The panel discussions over regulation on television have been time and again raised as a way to control the runaway speed of television news, but this doesn’t seem to address the more intricate problem.

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