Does YouTube Change Africa’s Image?

Famine, war, disasters, ethnic violence. congo

The dominant images of Africa produced by mainstream news media have been predictable and well-documented over the years. With the arrival of social media that allow anyone with an Internet connection the ability to share their photos and videos, I wondered if those images had changed.  So, I analyzed YouTube videos focused on Kenya and Ghana.

The results were published this month in the International Communication Gazette, in my article, “Africa on YouTube: Musicians, Tourists, Missionaries, and Aid Workers.

The good news:

  • African countries are not represented as chaotic and violent as has often been the case in the past.  The images are more likely to be positive or at least neutral.  (Unless they are produced by news outlets.)
  • For those looking for more in-depth examinations of serious issues, NGOs producing news style videos are sharing their work via YouTube.

The bad news:

  • Stereotypes continue, with an emphasis in the case of Kenya, on depicting the country as home to big game animals but not any actual humans.
  • Westerners post the majority of videos about Kenya and Ghana, probably reflecting the low Internet access rates in both countries.
  • Africans unaccompanied by Westerners are most likely to appear in entertainment, especially music, videos. The music videos are quite derivative of Western styles including their exploitation of women.
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