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Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine has consistently made headlines globally, with media houses keenly keeping an eye on the developments of one of the most visible wars in the modern world. It is virtually impossible to avoid updates on social media, news bulletins, and front-page covers on newspapers about the Ukrainian crisis, which begs the question: why do African wars never receive this kind of exposure and coverage?
The extent to which conflicts worldwide are exposed boils down to interest. Media houses and news corporations are the most significant driving forces behind what people see, hear, and talk about. It is more likely that war, including one of the strongest and oldest countries (Russia) and a major world player (Ukraine), will garner this much attention compared to a small and poor country in Africa. The more power a country has, the more the world shakes when it moves.
Global interest in international affairs often correlates to proximity economically, socially, culturally, politically, geographically, and access. People react more to what they relate to, so that affects exposure. A quote by Virgil Hawkins encompasses this notion well: ‘Wars in Africa are of little interest to the West because they are happening to people too far away, who are too different, living in countries that are not “important” enough.’
There is a stark difference in the influx of reports on European conflicts than African conflicts like the South Sudanese Civil War that went on for seven years and only ended in 2020 claiming the lives of over 400 000 people by 2018. What’s worse is that there will be wars within a war in Africa, so the devastation is much more jarring, yet global reactions will downplay it or not acknowledge it at all.
Political power plays a big role in the attention a country garners. Powerful nations like the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Russia, and many others are more likely to make headlines on a larger scale solely because they possess more power compared to smaller, developing countries. These African countries are seen as weak and useless globally. Unless directly affected militarily, monetarily, or politically, the West and Europe pay less attention to ongoing African wars.
Unfortunately, much of how the world operates will always be rooted on racism. European and Western broadcasters have always shown racial discrimination towards those further in proximity to whiteness. Maher Mazahi, in his article for BBC, points out a reality we’re all told is untrue yet, is proven otherwise consistently: ‘We are all equal, but some are more equal than others.’ The Russia/Ukraine conflict has highlighted how European powers can unite and collectively assist one another in a crisis. However, black-on-black conflicts tend to result in the suspension of aid from large entities like the World Bank and the US. These African countries often heavily depend on them. While it is understandable that curtailing a nuclear war is a high-priority situation, it is not easy to ignore that Africa is never afforded the same urgency, no matter the level of devastation.
In conclusion, it is valid to ask such questions. Why does Africa always get the short end of the stick even in a post-colonial set up? The world may have ‘changed’ on paper and in some ways, but fundamentally, Africa is still the least cared for continent despite all that it provides. Often stifled and stolen from, Africa only has itself when it comes to creating voices loud enough to echo its struggles.