Activist and blogger Ory Okollo, guest edits the online edition of ‘The Globe and Mail’

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Photo Gregor Rohrig | Flickr moblogdci

Last Monday, and given the forthcoming G8/G20 summit in Toronto, Canadian newspaper “The Globe and Mail” published a special edition of its paper titled “The African Century” and co-edited by:

anti-poverty activists Bono and Bob Geldof – who produced a special issue focused on the future of Africa and its importance not just for the more than 1 billion people living on that continent, but for Canadians and the rest of the West as well.

This in many ways would look like just another contribution to those discourses of “how to help Africa”, “what can we do for the continent”…and in which instead of giving voice to African themselves, people from all walks of life and with the minimal relationship to the continente (sometimes not even that…) proclaim themselves speakers for the continent. However (we’re not sure if in order to avoid criticisms, to balance both sides, or out or real recognition to her work) “The Globe and Mail” also decided to give the online edition of the paper to Ory Okollo, (a.k.a. Kenyanpundit) founder of Ushahidi and whose work has been talked about before in Periodismo Ciudadano.

On her online edition, Okolloh included, among others: an article originally published on the Wall Street Journal on Africa’s generation gap “between Africa’s current leaders and the majority of Africa’s population, 60 per cent of which is under 25 years old” (Okolloh); there was also an article by Sitawa Namwalie for Kenya Imagine about kenyan writter Ngugi wa Thiong’o who for decades has been writing his literature in Gikuyu and is thus
“carving out an alcove of existence, a space of freedom, for all of those many ethnicities and civilizations, which do not come from a dominant language culture”(Namwalie); and also an exclusive contribution by TMSRuge, co-founder of “Project Diaspora”, and in which he ponders the potential of the
“450 million growing up with a mobile phone in their back pocket”, a “cheetah generation”, as George B.N. Ayittey calls them, of “self-motivated, fast-moving, idea pushers”.
It is precisely these stories that Okolloh wanted to share with the Canadian (and world) audience on her online edtion of “The Globe and Mail”. Okolloh explined thus her reasons for accepting the offer:

This is a rare opportunity to expose the readers of The Globe and Mail to an Africa that they do not see very often: one of promise, of diversity, of art, of complexity, of humour, of intellectuals. While I am a huge proponent of us as Africans telling our own stories and countering the negative stereotypes out there since no one else will, I am also cognizant of the power that the mainstream Western media still has on shaping perceptions of the continent.
Also in the back of my mind, was the fact that Bono and Bob Geldof will edit the paper edition of The Globe and Mail….and was concerned that the paper edition, while focused on Africa, might reflect a one-sided view…
So while the paper edition might focus on what the world can do for Africa, my role as the guest editor will be to return to the question of what can Africans do for Africa and what are we doing for Africa
I agree that this is a momentous time for the continent…It is, however, also a momentous time for the rest of the world. Countries in Europe are finding themselves wading into territory that was previously considered the domain of the Third World, from being highly indebted, to being subject to IMF austerity measures, to grappling with high unemployment, to dealing with flawed elections.
And so I hope this will not just be an opportunity to learn about Africa, but also to learn from Africa.

A wish we suscribe from here. Also, we’d like to congratulate “The Globe and Mail” for givin the online edition of its paper’s special issue devoted to Africa, to someone with such experience and first-hand knowledge of the initiatives that are booming on the continent.

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