It's frequently depressing reading accounts of Africa in the mainstream media. Doubly so, in fact. Firstly because what is defined as worthy of reporting is, well, depressing. And secondly because it so seldom engages with the complex and vibrant reality of the continent in all its massive diversity, preferring instead to deal in simplistic stereotypes.
That's why today's launch of a new website from global news organisation Reuters devoted exclusively to the continent – Reuters Africa – is so exciting. And most exciting of all is the inclusion of blogs on every individual country page on the site.
In the screenshot below of the site's page for Uganda you can see, to the right of the map, a section headed “BLOGS”. Below it are links to the most recent entries on Uganda from Global Voices. There is a similar feed for each of the more than 50 countries on the continent.
Reuters is a major funder of Global Voices and it is great that they are able to use our content in this way. It also demonstrates the increasing value placed by news organisations on the ability of authentic voices to provide perspective, background and context to the events they cover. Reuters puts it like this:
The launch of Reuters Africa supports Reuters commitment to cover Africa in detail and from all angles, to give a wider sense of the issues and their contexts, and to explore the individual countries and cultures. Reuters Africa will target both those living on the continent, and anyone globally who follows African development, investment and news…
As part of Reuters continuing efforts to incorporate a wider set of voices and commentary into its news content, the site will incorporate country-specific blogs via Global Voices, the international network of bloggers.
This is a great step forward, but there's still a long way to go. There are large and exciting blogging communities in several countries, such as Nigeria and Kenya but there are other areas where coverage is very sparse and still others, such as Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, where online expression is severely curtailed by the government.
We hope that the involvement of bloggers in projects such as this not only gives a platform to those whose voices have long been left unheard but also encourages others to join the conversation and brings pressure to bear on behalf of those who want to speak but cannot.