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Defying the Standard Narrative About Africa

As Melton Fellows are preparing for the Global Citizenship Conference, Millicent Adjei of Ashesi University talked about the deficit ideology and how we can defy the standard narrative about Africa.

Milicent Adjei

The first pre-GCC activity of this season included an online session led by Millicent Adjei. The Melton Share started with gaining clarity about how the experiences of an individual or a particular community can easily become the narrative for a whole continent, which has 54 beautiful and culturally rich and diverse countries. Millicent pointed out that it is essential to come away from the ‘blame-the-victim’ mentality that often arises from a single dimension of thought.

Throughout the Melton Share, we dwelled on how a new narrative is essential to bring to light a “New Africa,” one that is self-sustaining, diverse and empowered. Melton Fellows also poured in suggestions on how this new narrative can be made possible, including a focus on news and media houses in different parts of the continent.

At the end of the Melton Share, Millicent introduced a Critical Incidence Activity that involved the fellows identifying and discussing the narrative told by these two pictures:

Kyle went to Ghana for a holiday and took this picture.

For his album Kyle decided to use details of this picture. Why do you think Kyle did this?

A Fellow from Ghana shared: “In relating this story to Africa, I think the picture (standard narrative) in itself is not “wrong.” What I do have an issue with is the interpretation of the picture. Given the cropped parts, why do I think the place is under-developed, if I think it is under-developed? Is development linear? Is my interpretation of the picture true?

“I believe it is problematic that when we do hear the standard African narrative, we measure and interpret the stories based on our perception of how life should be lived. It is thus important to focus on stories, and truly understand and learn about the culture of the people, so as to interpret these stories (true or false) in the way of the locals.

“But telling a half truth is a lie, so let’s all strive to tell the full story with all possible perspectives, especially of the subjects of your story!”

A Fellow from Germany responded: “What happens is that we all have some kind of picture in our head (stereotypes). Thus, when we are not aware of those pictures – and it is just pictures and not reality – we tend to focus on stereotypes, and may overlook the real diversity that a whole country possesses.”

With many other fellows sharing their views , it became clear that a change in the narrative is crucial. Keeping this in mind, we are gearing up for our next two Melton Shares, coming soon.

Melton Foundation campuses are constantly working towards bringing awareness about important issues, and steering away from stereotypical thinking. Hands-on projects in the Melton Foundation network are bringing people from different parts of the world together, and shedding light on how we can reach across boundaries to find new solutions.

Our 100 Acts of Global Citizenship is an example of how we’re doing this.

At this GCC, we will strive to change the single dimension narrative and make the call for a paradigm shift. Our Springboard Sessions are the highlight of the GCC, where you get to witness global citizenship leaders share their stories.


REGISTER TODAY and be a part of our Global Citizenship Community at the #GhanaGCC2017!