7 Effective Ways to Read and Understand African Political News

Whether you are an African expatriate hoping to stay in touch with what is going on in your home country, a potential tourist hoping to do research on the best place to visit, a political student striving to understand the development in Africa, or simply well-wisher dedicated to unload of few bucks to chip in the aid for Africa, translating the information you read into valuable knowledge is an important task

Like any other continent, Africa offers a set of complex realities that can offer conflicting outcome for the party interested; moreover, accessing the information you need is not always evident between the information you look for, and the information you find.

Below is a short description of criteria to consider when reading or researching news on Africa. While the list is not exclusive, and can certainly be extended, I believe this initial guidepost may help. Feel free to add or consider additional helpful points.

1. Consider the source of the information

Africa is a very complex place, that combines many world and realities, the gap between the rich and the poor creates in many places two different societies whose world rarely collide. For that reason, news sources are often tailored to one group or the other.

Understanding the source of the information will help you assess the legitimacy of the information you have. For example, is it a local or foreign news source? Foreign sources often have greater access to political circles because the government is more concerned about the way it is portrayed to the outside world; however, foreign sources rarely give you the real pulse of the nation. If the source is local, consider the accreditation that is reflected by interviews or first hand accounts. In Africa, Official news is often given unofficially, while official news is a front. That means that those sources that have close access to the government are more likely to give credible news, compare to unaccredited sources to whom is given generic news. (More on it further down)

2. Try to capture the perspective of the information

In Africa, the freedom of the press is not a sacred duty, and as mentioned above, free and transparent news are not evident. As a result, news often reflects the perspective of the source. The information you will get is based on the perception of the source. In the West, Africa is widely primarily viewed as a continent ravaged by war and diseases, where impoverished people and government are struggling very hard to survive, and thus their lives and activities are geared toward Help and how the global community can help them. As a result, most African news coming from the West will treat topics such as aid, sanction, peace and war, and oil discovery. Human rights, rigged election and corruption are other subjects often treated; in other words, Western media tend to chronicle Africa’s efforts to “join” or emulate them.

When it comes to local media and news sources, the dilemma is different. Elite and well positioned news sources depicts the political life of the country, meaning that their news are mostly geared toward accounts of big political activities, such as Presidential travels and visits, opposition complaints, foreign investment, dignitaries visits, Diaspora news and international events in which the government participate. In short, those news sources attempts to present information from the perception of Africa to the rest of the world.

Finally, local media perception is often directed at the local population, therefore offers information on issue that matters to locals; energy and gas issues, employment, government promises kept or not, education, political freedom, cultural and social safeguard, etc…

3. Acknowledge the Biases

In the U.S, it is often assumed that CNN is Pro-democrats, and Fox News is a Republican arm, regardless if true or not, that perception is very present in Africa as well; not in form of Republican or democrats of course, but they still play a short role.

From the day of colonization, Western Nations had strategic interests in Africa, and Political propaganda has insured that many Westerners view some African countries internal policies as beneficial or threatening to their way of life.

If your African news information is from a Western source, always consider the position of your country with the African country you are researching. Popular opinion is critical and very few Western media will say nice things about the Zimbabwe government for example. Western media will offer news based on the national interest of their home country. You will rarely read negative report about the Egyptian Government that has good relations with Washington, although it is not a beacon of Democracy, yet Zimbabwe, which has been a torn in their side, is demonized. This is not an attempt to justify the evil of some people, but it is worth considering that Western media will report information according to the way they wish a certain country to be viewed.

If you wish to avoid the biases of Western news outlet, you are better off searching for African news by African news outlets. There again, there is an often bias between Pro and anti government. Some news sources are government sponsored, while other are dedicated to discredit the government regardless of good deeds or not. In Africa the contrast is usually very strong, as you can read full articles of “official” news feed that praises the government unashamedly, while others are almost littered with insults. Very rarely will you find news source that are impartial, and it is usually very evident to distinguish the sources political leanings.

Given the polarity of African societies, and the actuality of International Relations, one must not look at news Biases with pure disgust, but as a component and vital actor of global politics; filling between diverse biases can actually help uncover valuable information. But in case it doesn’t help, always consider independent news and…

4. Identify the agendas

If for some reasons you are unable to filter official and supposedly professional news sources, do make use of independent news sources such as NGO’s and Think Tank. Because they are usually unaffiliated with any government, and their work is mainly based on empirical data and research, NGO and Think Tank do paint an educated and comprehensive picture of what is going on in Africa. Most of their works are expanded toward a wide range of subjects that reflects a non-partial view of government activities, social realities and international implications.

If you obtain your news via NGOs or Think Tanks, you are most likely to have access to strong data, depending on the Think Tank, and hard core evidence of what is going on in the country you research.

The only problem presented by NGOs and Think Tanks is that they do have an agenda. The nature of their strong work is usually motivated by the mission to influence or advice a government to act toward an issue they view as important. Because of that agenda, those organizations often accentuate an issue to the point where it overshadows others, making it look like an exaggeration.

For example if an NGO has for agenda to reduce arm trafficking in Africa, their information may offer solid leads on the pulse of a country, with credible evidence; however, their extensive research on the impact of arm trafficking may minimize other positive information, to the point of giving the impression that you can buy Ak47 at a candy store. This of course is not with the intent to deceive or dramatize, but with the objective of using the data to convince world powers to act on arms trafficking.

If you know how to extract your information from those sources, they are an excellent balance to local and international news.

5. Check the blogs

Africa sends millions of its bright Sons and Daughters abroad to study in higher education, and loses other millions professionals in search of a better living. While the damages of this brain drain are considerable, the attachment all those Africans retain for their homeland represents a glimpse of hope.

Since they cannot directly be involve in official affairs in their home countries because of the distance or political threats, many member of the African Diaspora voice their opinions in blogs or personal websites.

The advantage of reading those opinionated blogs is that it offers a personal touch and reaction to all the other news you may have read.

Many are very knowledgeable in what they are writing, and approach it in a very professional way. They are not constrained by editorial control, so are free to give their honest, educated opinion on what they read, heard or experienced in and out of Africa.

If they are not that knowledgeable on African affairs anymore, many still have families abroad who can give them first account to report on what is happening.

Because they are so many blogs related to Africa, you can not only compare information and news, but also engage the writers and have a better feel on how and where they get to say what they are saying.

For most people, this is a valuable source, because on top of general political views, they can offer a personal one, as well as giving an insight on how and where people live their everyday, not to mention, where the hotspots are.

The disadvantage of Blogs is that it is after all just personal opinions, and personal opinions can be motivated or inspired by perception, Bias, and /or agenda. It is not uncommon for exile politicians to mount an opposition from abroad, something blogs tend to make easier, so caution is advised for that reason.

6. Search for supportive news

Every news agency is in search of a scoop, and none wants to be left out of considerable information.

Whenever you stumble on interesting information for your research, after identifying the source, always make sure to search if that information is reprised by other news outlets.

When it comes to Africa, it is very common for news to be generalizing, but if you feel you came across useful information, always double check if you can locate it in other Western sources (if those where your primary sources), and then in local African sources. Check in Blogs and social sites if it is being discussed, or better create a new discussion.

The fact of the matter is that if you are looking for information on Africa, the complexity of its state does not favor taking any information at face value, but insuring that it is shared, discussed and not hostage to any perception and bias will help you have good grip on what is going on.

7. Use common sense

In Politics like in everything, things happen for a reason, from a coup d’Etat, to a social uprising, and political instability to international sanction.

Africa is not another planet we know nothing about, and it did not appear without a past or history.

In everything you read or learn about Africa, consider the context and remember history. Famine and poverty did not come suddenly; wars all have a spark plug, poor countries should not be able to buy weapons they do not manufacture.

The context and the historical reality that today links nearly all countries on Earth presents the fertile ground on how you will receive the news you receive, they way you receive it.

Knowledge is a light to which is drawn a bug called interest, and common sense should help you navigate the waves of misinformation toward the land of comprehension of the subject you research.

As mentioned, this is a list that can be extended and perfected, but for all who have at one point or another, read African news or wanted to understand what is going in Africa, I hope that little list will be helpful the next time it happens.

Over-reliance on popular media is like over relying in anything, it cripples one’s ability, and dilutes the quality of the need sought.

Stay thirsty for knowledge; you might very well quench your thirst yourself.

Follow International News With Satellite Internet

One criticism that many people lob against American media and American culture is that it is too self-obsessed. It is always looking inward, navel-gazing, and assuming that what goes on in the United States is the most important event in the world at the moment. In a certain but limited sense, this is true, because the United States is one of the most powerful country in the world, and its money goes everywhere and affects the economy of just about every nation. The United States’ military is in countless countries around the world, not just in where it maintains active wars like Afghanistan and Iraq. For example, the United States maintains more than 50,000 troops in Germany, as a leftover of a post World War II international deal that sought to prevent the country to re-militarize on its own.

But sometimes in its coverage of political events, the mainstream media in the United States fails to include an international perspective that more worldly Americans would like to see. On one hand, this makes sense: we are in the United States, so of course our news would reflect our perspective and our values, and emphasize how the country and its citizens are involved in and affected by a given event. But on the other hand, it is productive and respectful to give a platform for other voices, and only serves to enrich one’s perspective on world affairs and political questions in general.

So where can one go who is interested in a more international perspective? Luckily, seeking out such media has never been easier than it is now in the age of satellite Internet. This is because, with satellite Internet, the politics buff or the internationally-minded can access a number of news sources that are just not available on mainstream television in the United States. One can go to websites that are in English like the BBC news site to get recaps of world events from a broader, European context. Doing so will leave one somewhat shocked at the differences in what gets covered, and how. Another possibility is going to a number of international news blogs, which can be dedicated to certain themes, such as Latin American financial policy, for example. For those who are savvy enough to be able to read in another language, you can use satellite Internet to access the websites of local newspapers in countries that interest you. Those who are interested in the French strikes against government cutbacks on social programs can go to the website for Le Monde, for example, and read articles that break down the situation from the local perspective, instead of having to rely on the version provided by the New York Times. This will give the reader more context. While news about France might break into the mainstream press coverage of world affairs a couple of times a year, a newspaper like Le Monde will have a much better idea of France’s history of labor protests, for example. Finally, you can also use satellite Internet to access podcasts on international issues.

Keeping Up With International News

The world continues to be interconnected as a result of the increasing reliance of nations upon each other. No one can discount the importance of staying aware of what is going on in their region and beyond. Events seem to have a domino effect and something that affects a far off country may have a significant impact on the entire world. The world is a changing place and people need news that is informative and essential. International coverage of news has often been criticized as either biased or superficial. Journalists have been blamed for failing to provide readers, viewers and listeners with the information they deserve.

People adopt a careless attitude because they imagine that the only news that matters is the one that occurs within their hometown or country. The recent economic recession was clear evidence of how far reaching a global meltdown can be. Everyone was affected and even the so-called untouchables had to contend with the financial challenges that this financial situation brought about. People are generally more concerned with news stories that are deemed to be trendy or relevant. However, the untold stories tend to be the most enlightening. News does not always have to be about doom and gloom. There are some heartwarming stories out there, stories that inspire and teach people about the brighter side of life.

Quality information is the best resource for people who want to know the constant changes that are going on around the world. From health to technology, life is always evolving and these radical changes can be understood through situation analysis. When people acknowledge their need for news, journalists are in a better position to provide them with what they need to know. International news has made it possible for the world to unite and help other nations that fall victim to the rage of nature. From Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, news has shed light on issues of global importance and the need to help.

Feel The Pulse Of Readers

International news blogs today are responding to consumer demands. With the idea of retaining consumer interest, each channel and newspaper has decided to move online. With a captive audience not distracted by commercial breaks they have a tougher job of delivering content and information. News blog readers are more alert and focused on the siphoned information. They are quick to give feedback and demands. These are incorporated by smart international news blogs. As a result many have become top ranked and preferred sources of information for consumers.

Not just the look and layout but also options for customization have been established. If there is a specific sports channel online, it actually lets users customize the content to their interest. As a result online TV becomes very personal and interesting. These changes are matched with even more features.

When you see a news blog or breaking news, you can share it as you watch it! The programs are designed to forward the link without interrupting the streaming of video or loading of the blog page! What more could avid news or sports fan ask for? Good content on a variety of blogs has built their credibility. There are many personal touches by experts who provide breaking news with authority. This line of approach helps create a rapport between the audience and bloggers.

There are authoritative sources that relay the market condition and breaking news. The blogs are designed to give interesting yet insightful information. Most of all you can access it anytime and anywhere in the format of your choice. With a sports news blog you can get expert commentary on a current international event. If you are traveling and cant watch the game you can get RSS feed alerts through email and check up on the blog for updates. When you settle in its possible to log onto your favorite sports channel online and continue watching the game with streaming video. This is how technology online supports a whole industry. The news is presented in different formats. As a result readers and viewers can tap into the source convenient for them.

When leading sports and business channels went online the goal was singular in nature – to capture the online audience. This has been done in a sweeping manner in the past decade. With internet capabilities being enhanced by the day, it’s possible to relay information much faster. As a result you can stream video in real-time and not have to wait for it to load up. The content online is crisp and interesting minus the clutter. With the options of customized content viewers enjoy a personalized experience. Not only can they watch or read the content at leisure but they have privacy and a right to choose what content they want access to.

Reliable Alternative Sources for International News

Conventionally we are used to catching up with international news through printed newspapers, the radio and of course the television. However, many people have started to doubt the credibility of the mass media and the search for reliable alternative sources of international news is on. Still more search for alternative news sources that will allow them to stay updated with current global news on the go and the answer comes forth in the form of web based news blogs.

In today’s fast pace world most of us do not have the time to sit and watch television after returning home from our hectic day jobs. The fact the television channels telecast more advertisements than the actual content we are interested in makes it even more of a drag. This is one of the reasons people have started flocking to the internet especially when it comes to catching up with current global news.

The mass media has long been labeled as pushing overt agendas. This is especially true when it comes to news agencies and channels. However, the unbiased amongst us want insight on the real news as it happens without any bias, lies or deception. While the news telecasted on the television and in print media can go unchecked, the case with news blogs is totally different.

In the majority of cases, news blogs that are focused on provided unbiased international news allow users to give their feedback in the form of comments. This helps to keep the journalists in check. If there is any malice, deception or concealing of facts it is instantly exposed and the truth is uncovered. This is something that you can never get with the television which is why finding reliable alternative sources for international news on the internet is easier.

There is much to be careful about however when it comes to the internet. Freedom of speech is at its zenith on the World Wide Web and everyone can have a say. There are a large number of websites that have been created to push certain overt agendas which you need to be careful of. This is why it is important to be aware of the leading news blogs renowned for delivering unbiased, informative and factual news.

There are other merits to catching up with the news online. The first is that you can do so on your own sweet time and don’t have to log on at a specific time to watch updates. In fact you can even subscribe for updates and stay informed while you are on the go. The mobility and flexibility is one of the biggest plus factors when it comes to news blogs. The fact that you won’t have to bother with any pestering advertisements that waste your precious time is yet another reason why the world is keen on making this transition.

International News At Your Fingertips

With online TV at your disposal, getting international news round the clock becomes very convenient. While the older generation may prefer a morning dose of printed news, the new generations demand the latest updates. This has created a demand for online TV channels and news blogs. From international news to local coverage you can find everything online. With the basic PC TV software you can surf thousands of channels. You require a high-speed internet connection which is available to anyone owning a laptop or PC. Hence you get access to 24/7 breaking news in real-time. The channels start reporting events as they happen. This means that you can get your hourly, mid day or days end news fix as desired.

The main advantage of getting the current global news online is privacy. You choose what channel to watch and when to watch it. You don’t have to be stuck at a coffee shop or family lounge and get snippets on an area of your interest. With online TV you can simply stream videos or check of the news blogs. It becomes very convenient especially for those who need facts from the news. There are high quality international news blog posts which are updated in real-time.

You can quote them as a source on research material. Also you will gain access and insight to the many expert views. A major reason for the popularity of online TV is that you now have high-speed internet to support this service. Where initially you had issues with the download time, these have been resolved completely. At the click of a button you can log in and find out the latest news and updates. The breaking news or international coverage is just a click away. This eliminates the need to wait for the news print to arrive in the morning with updates.

The convenience factor adds on with a PC. Since you will most likely be working on it or connecting with friends, it becomes cumbersome to switch to TV. Especially if you can get all the info online it’s easier to log in and connect with a myriad of channels and reports. This is why news blogs are gaining immense popularity. You can subscribe to international news blog services. This allows you to receive email alerts for breaking news. As soon as convenient for you, you can click on the links and get the latest update.

Whether it’s the quest for the current global news or a business requirement to stay in the loop on the international front, online TV lets you get both! You can truly see the power of technology as it gives you information in real-time. You don’t have to pay any installation fee, subscription charges or get new hardware for this aspect of going online.