Media – an African perspective

Seth’s latest is about the most succinct and important post I have read this year. Give it a read:

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2017/02/nextstep.html

What interests me is the perspective that Seth has on the issues he raises – namely he is American and is at the heart of the most developed, sophisticated economy in the world – and the media he is exposed to is a reflection of that. On the other hand, I live in Africa.

In many ways, we Africans are leapfrogging Americans and Europeans in terms of consuming media – we are keen to use technology. We get the latest TV shows, movies and sports from all over the world. Premier league soccer games are passionately followed even in the poorest slums in Nairobi. We have access to Twitter, Facebook and the internet. Mobile telephones have been taken up far quicker here than they were in the developed world – so there is a case to be made that the surplus of the internet and the ‘race to the bottom’ trends Seth speaks of are likely accelerating quicker here than in the USA.

There is also huge scarcity in Africa – however rather than an artificial scarcity controlled by the FCC or its local equivalent, African scarcity is driven largely by poverty. Unfortunately poverty combines very neatly with any media agenda that is pushing us to think short term – to care about now and not later. I think Africa’s environmental degradation and lack of investment in culture or education is in part a reflection of this. Scarcity is in conflict with the ubiquitous internet. I am still getting my head around how this plays out locally in terms of media consumption. The pace of change and media consumption is slower because of scarcity. Access is restricted. Africans cannot contribute as much to their own media and culture because of poverty. We are influenced by other continents far more than we should be. Just ask a local if he’d watch South African or English soccer. My bet is England any day of the week because of the exposure it has gotten through the TV networks.

Despite these differences between geographies, Seth’s ending point is still completely true the world over: “We’ve been willing participants in this daily race for our attention and our emotions. But we don’t have to be.”

Every now and then we must get out and do something other than consume.