Ethan Zuckerman’s online home, since 2003

What concertgoers know about Africa… and Africans know about Live 8

The good folks at Christian Science Monitor have done a small – but very interesting – survey, talking to ticketholders for concerts and university students in Senegal and Nigeria. Too small to be scientifically significant – eight selected from each group – the journalists discovered some interesting differences in perspectives and priorities.

Concertgoers identified AIDS as the chief problem facing the continent six of eight times; the students identified poverty as the chief problem seven of eight times. (It’s possible that this has to do with interviewing West Africans where the impact of AIDS, though profound, has been less devestating than in East and Southern Africa.)

Only three of eight concertgoers thought aid to Africa should have conditions attached to it. Six of the eight African students did, citing the tendency of aid money to end up in the pockets of corrupt officials. African students tended to mention the devestating impact of civil wars on the continent and the role Northern nations play in selling arms to the continent.

In a pair of “gotcha” questions, the interviewers found that only two of the eight concertgoers could name all the members of the G-8 (none of the eight Africans could)… and that only half the concertgoers could name a single African leader. (In three of four cases, the concertgoers came up with “Robert Mugabe”, suggesting something about what African countries do and don’t receive Northern media coverage.

Given my research on media attention, I really liked Francesco Colangelo’s – a film director in Rome – answer to the African leader question:

Name the current leader of any African country.
I can’t. I lack the knowledge. But I am also a victim of a lack of information. Africa is talked about only as a marginal place. A place that does not matter. It is not important in dominant culture. Its leaders do not often make the news here.

Very much worth reading the whole piece. And if you’re interested, CSM is soliciting comments from readers about Live8.

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