The Ghanaian blogosphere remains aflutter with talk of the CNN.com/Motherboard TV article on sakawa in Ghana…
One blogger bravely going against the tide is Sinaisix.
He suggests that young Ghana should be doing something about sakawa instead of focusing on how its story has been relayed. A commendable point, no doubt.
Well, I suggest you give it a read. Here’s my response. It didn’t fit in his comments section, so I decided to make a post of it.
As one of the bloggers/youth of Ghana who your post is so critical of, I was surprised to find there are some points in your piece about which we are in complete agreement:
1. Abhoring denial, oblivion, mediocrity, stupidity and incompetence.
2. That the theme of the CNN article was not wrong: Sakawa DOES exist and is a problem.
We, however, disagree about the extent of the problem.
You say 8 out of 10 of all people sitting in cafes are “likely to be engaging in 419 scams”.
Is that a researched fact or are you also just making a general point? Based on the main point of your post, I suspect the latter.
Which is where we differ.
Call me crazy, but I think it is COMPLETELY reasonable to take good journalism literally.
Morton’s editorial wasn’t a religious tale open to translation. It wasn’t a “Tale By the Fireside”.
It was (supposed to be) journalism. On the website of one of the world’s most reputable journalistic entities. Endorsed by said journalism entity as a piece of good, innovative journalism.
Good journalism is based on facts.
The beautiful thing about facts is that if they are true and you can prove them to be so, they don’t need embellishment or generalization.
You may not consider this important, but it goes right to the heart of why many of our problems – like sakawa – don’t get solved.
For example, here in Ghana our journalists (people who are supposed to enlighten us to the truth so we can do something about it) and politicians (people who are supposed to take those truths and shape better realities out of it for us all) often get caught up in embellishment and generalization. Instead of truth.
Not all of them. But enough of them.
In doing so, they contribute to the fact that little gets done about the problems you speak of: problems like electricity, water, shelter, transportation, security.
Mistruths and embellishments undermine facts. They open them up to attack and discredit. As we daily see here in Ghana. As we have seen with Morton’s piece. This creates the conditions for the mediocrity, stupidity and incompetence you say you abhor. Nothing gets done.
Back to CNN, if Morton had facts, all he had to do was state them.
He didn’t do that.
Probably because he didn’t have anything new to say about sakawa that hadn’t already been said. As such, he had to rely on spin, embellishment and generalisation to give his piece relevance.
Of COURSE, people were going to pick holes in it.
Yes: dealing with sakawa would be a more constructive use of our time. It is a problem. But it appears that people agree with me that Morton’s kind of article is a problem too.
You may disagree. Here is however a(nother) reason why you shouldn’t:
Morton clearly did not write the article for a Ghanaian audience. He wrote it for a foreign audience. Many of whom do not know much about our continent. More of whom have very flawed notions about our continent.
You may have not taken Morton literally but… forget young Ghanaians: many members of his target audience will. Moreover, just like me, they have this crazy idea that journalism is based on facts. Not just in general theme. In wording.
This is important.
We live in a globalised world with uneven power relations. What the West and other non-African entities think about Africa has very real implications for Africa. For example…
- For aid.
- For development agendas.
- For trade and economic relations.
- For NGOs and humanitarianism.
- For intervention, particularly of the military kind.
Ask the people of Ivory Coast or Libya, for example. Or ask our very own government.
I’m not blaming Morton for White Man’s Burden. But his article contributes to a problem and if you think this is not the case then you might want to ask yourself who is in oblivious denial.
PS: questioning everyone’s intelligence is not the smartest way to persuade them to focus on solving a problem.
Just a tip.
Edit: Sinaisix has responded to this post. Feel free to check it out here.