Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

NPR correspondent urges open-mindedness concerning Africa

Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian
(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

National Public Radio’s Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton asked a packed Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall to see Africa as a continent of beauty and culture rather than a chaotic area of the world during her Tuesday discussion titled “NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton Presents ‘Africa Now.’”

After University of Massachusetts history professor John Higginson posed the first question on the fallacies regarding Africa, Quist-Arcton answered “that the beloved and extraordinary continent is all about war and disease, and doom and gloom, and I blame myself for this narrative as much as I blame everyone.”

Throughout the discussion, Quist-Arcton explained that Africa is too big to be labeled by one thing.

“With 54 countries, there are many different languages, cultures, arts and people,” Quist-Arcton said. “There is so much going on that is much, much, much more than conflict and disease.”

But Quist-Arcton is not without pragmatism in her assessment of the continent.

“The problem is there is conflict and disease and we must report on that too, but at least I, as a reporter, do try and give a broader brush to the canvas that is Africa,” she said during the discussion.

Aside from addressing the common judgments about Africa, Quist-Arcton delved into Africa’s growing educated youth, telling the audience it was their time to step up and make change in the continent.

Quist-Arcton said one of the main issues in Africa was how its leadership was mishandling the youth in their societies, which, according to Higginson, makes up “60 percent of the African population.”

“The youth are saying, ‘Look you sent us for education, we have become educated, we have a lot to contribute, make the most of us!’ and you have some African leaders who are simply not doing that, they are not harnessing what is positive about the continent,” she said.

Quist-Arcton says that instead of allowing so much government spending to go into defense, which she acknowledges as still a legitimate concern, more funding should be allocated to support education and health care to aid youths.

But the African youth are not just staying idle, she says.

“They are innovating, they’re starting set ups, they are going off for their educations, some of them are staying home in their African countries (and) many (are) coming to the United States,” she said.

The influence of Chinese investment in African corporations was another hot-button issue discussed by Quist-Arcton, who said that “China has done its homework on Africa.”

Quist-Arcton said China knows what it wants from Africa, but Africa does not know what it wants from China. She pondered if Africa is to be abused, allowing Chinese businesses to extract from them at will, or if the two countries can unite and see some of their own priorities come to fruition with China’s help.

She also regards Nigeria as Africa’s economic giant, and explained how Nigeria and South Africa are vital to the continent’s growth, but are hampered by corrupt politics of the past.

“Nigeria is such an important country that it was crucial that it held elections that were transparent, and could be considered free and fair,” Quist-Arcton said. “It happened, and Nigeria is moving forward; not without its problems of course. It has huge problems.”

Quist-Arcton believes it is “technology that will ensure that the continent (as a whole) moves forward.”

Quist-Arcton, who was born in Ghana, currently performs International Correspondence with NPR, where she is stationed in Senegal. Her current subject of reporting is Senegalese migration.

Joseph Carstairs can be reached at [email protected].

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