Anda di halaman 1dari 16

International Communication Gazette

http://gaz.sagepub.com Africa on YouTube: Musicians, Tourists, Missionaries and Aid Workers


Melissa Wall International Communication Gazette 2009; 71; 393 DOI: 10.1177/1748048509104988 The online version of this article can be found at: http://gaz.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/71/5/393

Published by:
http://www.sagepublications.com

Additional services and information for International Communication Gazette can be found at: Email Alerts: http://gaz.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Subscriptions: http://gaz.sagepub.com/subscriptions Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Permissions: http://www.sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav Citations http://gaz.sagepub.com/cgi/content/refs/71/5/393

Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

The International Communication Gazette The Author(s), 2009. Reprints and permissions: http://www.sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav the International Communication Gazette, 1748-0485; Vol. 71(5): 393407; DOI: 10.1177/1748048509104988 http://gaz.sagepub.com

AFRICA ON YOUTUBE
Musicians, Tourists, Missionaries and Aid Workers Melissa Wall
Abstract / YouTube videos featuring the countries Ghana and Kenya were assessed, nding that this citizen media tool is allowing ordinary people to construct representations of African countries but that these are much more likely to come from westerners. Although these African countries are not represented as chaotic and violent as has often been the case in the past, they continue to be stereotyped. Africans unaccompanied by westerners are most likely to appear in entertainment, especially music, videos. Keywords / Africa / citizen media / Ghana / Kenya / YouTube

Much has been made of the potential of new technologies to revolutionize the collection and distribution of information. Some enthusiasts claim that these changes mean the world is now at with previous hierarchies disappearing around the globe (Friedman, 2006: 7). Others declare the emergence of a new era, the Connected Age, for example, in which institutions lose power to individuals, and civic life blooms due to the spread of technological changes (Benkler, 2006; Fine, 2006). In line with these claims, the arrival of citizen media is said to have enabled ordinary people to create and share narratives, as well as become politically empowered (Gareld, 2006). This article focuses in particular on the ways that citizen media might inuence international communication ows by enabling new ways of representing Africa, one of the most misrepresented regions of the world. Specically of interest here is the way Kenya and Ghana are represented on YouTube. The video le sharing site, which generates some 20 million visitors per month, is said to be emblematic of the changes wrought by digital technologies through which ordinary people are now given a voice. YouTube has been identied as revolutionizing foreign policy by providing human rights groups, terrorists and others a place to air their version of reality to a potential global audience of millions (Naim, 2007). Indeed, YouTube content that was perceived to threaten regimes has resulted in the site being temporarily blocked in countries such as Turkey and Thailand. Yet much of the current popular discourse about these technologies fails to systematically question the claims of their promoters that traditional barriers and hierarchies are universally disappearing.
Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

394

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION GAZETTE VOL. 71 NO. 5

Examining the images of two African countries on YouTube will take a step toward seeing how true these claims are.

Literature Review
For centuries, the African continent has historically and continues today to be misrepresented and stereotyped. Be it through journalism, lm or literature, a process of inscription and appropriation by the West has often been the key means of creating the dominant images of Africa (Duncan and Gregory, 1999: 3). Such images are social constructions supported through labeling, marginalization and other techniques to suggest particular ways of reading or interpreting the region. For example, Africans have traditionally been represented as closer to nature, more emotional, sexually uninhibited, more musical, childlike (Pieterse, 1992: 11). One of the common rhetorical devices western writers have employed to create such images is surveillance, through which a culture is examined, and therefore ultimately controlled by the western gaze (Spurr, 1993). Western observers employ their gaze to create an Other tied to the exercise of imperial power (Pratt, 1992; Spurr, 1993). Those viewing this Other are above or outside of that which they observe. Their gaze, then, is an active instrument of construction, order and arrangement (Spurr, 1993: 15). Westerners dominance of both knowledge and image production has enabled them to exercise dominion over Africa for centuries (Mudimbe, 1988; Pieterse, 1992). Researchers suggest that the imagery created via various genres such as literature or anthropological observations tends to reappear as potent journalistic stereotypes that are widely redistributed through the reach of news outlets. Repetitive images are echoed to the point where they become naturalized. In this way, the news media have contributed to the tropes that we most frequently associate with the continent (Pires, 2000). Research on news images of Africa consistently conrms that the region is portrayed as backward and violent, with warring tribes and extreme poverty (Fair, 1993; Moeller, 1999). The end result is the images become permanently embedded in the publics mind, making it difcult if not impossible to introduce new ones (Ogundimu, 1994).

Technology and Africa


While it has long been argued that technological advances fail to contribute to improving Africas image (Okigbo, 1995), more recent research suggests this situation may be changing. Harding (2003), for example, argues that more recently Africa has been seen differently within the West via new media formats and genres that she believes exhibit fewer stereotypes and more open texts, resulting in a more nuanced and complex view. In addition, she argues that as new communication technologies have become more widely available in Africa, Africans themselves are better positioned to create and distribute their own representations. This line of thought is also embodied in what a new generation of African leaders promotes as an African Renaissance in which the continent is seen as an emerging investment opportunity marked by success more than disasters (Hunter-Gault, 2006). They see
Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

WALL: AFRICA ON YOUTUBE

395

Africas liberalized economies bringing freedom and democracy through a further embrace of global capital and technologies. Optimists have argued that the rise of an information society will bring African countries better connections with the rest of the world along with other parts of the continent (Opoku-Mensah, 2004). They point out that Internet access has dramatically improved over the last few years and that the continent is devising plans and policies that will lead to it speeding up this process. For example, some observers praise initiatives such as the telecenter movement that offer possible solutions to access, allowing greater numbers of users at the community level where resources are pooled and shared (Mutala, 2003). Many of these optimists credit improvements in access to the withdrawal of African governments from the development of the telecommunications sector, leaving it to the private sector as required by global nancial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Such arguments follow more general pronouncements made in the West about the ability of technology to connect the world in more egalitarian networks (Friedman, 2006; Rheingold, 2002). Thus, it has been the case in the past that African governments have sought to delay the penetration of new technologies for fear of losing control of their populations (Mudhai, 2002). Articulating a different point of view, critics have warned that Africa has historically been dependent upon the West for technology and technological expertise. Oftentimes, African leaders make decisions to embrace the latest technology while ignoring issues of access, economic inequalities and the realities of poverty within their populations (Sonaike, 2004). Indeed, getting online is more expensive in African than just about anywhere else in the world as much of the continent relies on satellite connections as opposed to ber optics, which are considerably cheaper. Thus, while Africa has become increasingly wired, this access has been extremely uneven. These arguments suggest that the reliance on the private sector to develop information technologies is likely to reproduce inequities that have long existed and widen the privileges of the continents elites (Robins, 2002; Sonaike, 2004). The differences between those with and without access merely accentuate the gaps that already exist. For example, rural Africa, where most of the population lives, is still without basic telephone service and therefore is left further and further behind (Sonaike, 2004). Whether one takes the more critical or more optimistic view, it is possible to document that Africa is more visible online than just a few years ago, with search engines and other access points turning up more sites than ever before (Frsich and Robins, 2002). As Robins (2002: 236), writes, Neither a naive celebration of ICT potential nor condemnation as a new digital colonialism adequately captures the situation.

Methodology
Content analysis was used to assess YouTube videos about Kenya and Ghana. A random sample was selected by using the keyword (called a tag) Kenya or Ghana in YouTubes search box, which pulled up every video that had been labeled by the person posting it with that tag. For Kenya, YouTube made 1000 videos available for
Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

396

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION GAZETTE VOL. 71 NO. 5

viewing. From these, 200 videos were randomly selected and initially viewed between 15 and 28 February 2007. For Ghana, YouTube made 378 videos available for viewing, and 77 of those were randomly selected for analysis and viewed between 30 December 2007 and 8 January 2008. Videos had to appear to take place in the country under consideration (thus unrelated videos such as a cat named Kenya in the US were not included). It is possible some videos were lmed in neighboring countries such as a tourist video from multiple game parks in both Kenya and Tanzania. It is also possible that videos tagged with either Kenya or Ghana were not produced in those countries. In such cases, videos were kept in the sample if the poster tagged them as Kenya or Ghana because they would still be representative of an image of Africa. Also, only posts with visuals that consisted of either a video or a slideshow of photographs were included; posts with only audio were not analyzed. During the process of coding, six Kenyan videos became unavailable withdrawn from viewing either because of what YouTube identied as copyright violations or because the person who originally posted the video changed its access from public meaning anyone could view it to private, making it unavailable for further inclusion in this study. In all, 194 videos from Kenya and 77 from Ghana were assessed. The following questions were asked of each video: 1. How long is the video? (A counter appears on the YouTube interface.) 2. How many times has the video been viewed? (A counter appears on the YouTube interface.) 3. What country does the person posting the video claim to be from? In order to post videos, site visitors must log in and create an identity. They have the option of identifying their country of origin and providing other personal information. There is also an indicator for Hometown which some individuals use to list a different country than the one they are posting from. Categories into which videos were coded comprise: West (includes North America and Europe); Africa; Doesnt Say; Other. (The category Africa included diaspora those Africans who noted that they were currently living in a western country but claimed an African city as their hometown.) 4. What is the focus (the main activity or theme) of the video? The main focus was what the intention of the video appeared to be, so that while the video might appear to t multiple categories, the main purpose was the category in which it was coded. For example, a commercial for a tour company might show tourist activities, but the aim or purpose of the video is to sell a trip. Thus, it was coded as a commercial. Codes were: a. Tourist activities (tourists, game parks, beaches, hotels or other accommodations; school visits/study abroad; observations of traditional celebrations/ceremonies; recreational activities such as shing, swimming, hiking, ballooning, etc.). b. Entertainment (music video or concert footage, as well as soap operas, dramas, reality shows, etc., lmed in Kenya/Ghana regardless of their country of origin; includes gospel music videos). This category also includes interviews with or by famous artists, performers or sports gures.
Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

WALL: AFRICA ON YOUTUBE

397

c. Religion-related activities (visits to churches, revivals, preaching, discussions with missionaries/church workers; videos designed to elicit funding for religious organizations; does not include gospel music videos). d. Aid work (secular non-governmental organizations, as well as governmental projects such as US Peace Corps, UN, etc.) identied within the video credits or within its content as the sponsoring agent. e. News and information (news shows and documentaries lmed in Kenya/ Ghana); informational presentations created for public talks such as a PowerPoint show designed by a student. f. Commercials. g. Other.

Findings and Discussion Length


YouTube does not allow videos over 10 minutes in length. Previous policies allowed some users exceptions but those have been eliminated. There is no limit on how brief a video can be. The shortest Kenyan video was 7 seconds (a hotel room) and the longest was 28 minutes and 2 seconds (a documentary about a Somali musician who was forced to ee his neighboring homeland for Kenya). For Ghana, the shortest video was 10 seconds (a blurry video of farmers burning crops) and the longest 11 minutes (a music video). For both countries, the average length was nearly 5 minutes, which is certainly longer than many television news segments (Ghana, M = 4 minutes 48 seconds; Kenya, M = 4 minutes 63 seconds). The length of the videos suggests that some are so short as to convey only a eeting image. In other cases, the videos are long enough that they could be used to inform viewers about signicant issues. For example, a two-part Ghana video (6 minutes, 59 seconds for each of the parts), Trading Injustice: The Ghana Tomato Story, documented how the EU oods the African country with cheap tomatoes, undermining the local economy. Produced by a UK-based NGO, African Initiatives, the two videos present a welldocumented piece of reportage that would likely be available to a much more limited audience had it not been posted to YouTube.

Number of Views
One of the questions about YouTube videos is whether anyone actually sees them. If so, then they would hold the possibility of a new distribution channel not controlled by traditional mainstream media outlets, thus serving to counteract long-standing imbalances in information ows between Africa and other parts of the world. In other words, Africa could have a voice without the mediation of CNN, Sony Records or other western media conglomerates. Frequently viewed videos could also potentially have an impact in distributing different views of an African country that could reect a local or at least non-western perspective. For both countries, the most frequently viewed posts were music videos (Ghana, M = 6036; Kenya, M = 3247). The most viewed video from Ghana had been watched
Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

398

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION GAZETTE VOL. 71 NO. 5

137,861 times, the lowest number of views was 3 for a music video sung in French. For Kenya videos, the high was 53,347 views, again for a music video, and the low, 5 views for one created by a missionary. Overall, these gures give a slightly different picture of the size of the audience for African videos. The numbers of views are quite modest and certainly much lower than say circulation gures for leading print media in richer countries. The most likely scenario here is that a small number of break-out videos will generate audiences in the tens of thousands, whereas most will remain rather small in terms of their reach.

Country of Person Posting Video


One of the important questions asked about sites such as YouTube is whether they might somehow affect the ability of Africans to reach other parts of the world and become producers rather than merely consumers of their own images. Because anyone with Internet access could technically post a video, the barriers to communication are theoretically lowered, although certainly Africas lower Internet access would continue to pose a signicant barrier. While the numbers are increasing rapidly, both countries have very low Internet penetration rates: Kenya has approximately 2.8 million Internet users or 8 percent of the total population; in Ghana, there are about 610,000 Internet users, or 3 percent of the population (Kenya, 2007; Ghana, 2007). Not surprisingly, then, for both countries, the majority of people posting videos indicated they were in the West (this includes North America and Europe). For Kenya, 65 percent (n = 125) of those posting videos to YouTube said they were in a western country; the number was 70 percent (n = 53) of those posting Ghana videos. Africans (which included anyone self-identifying as either in or originally from an African country) made up fewer than 10 percent (n = 16) of those posting Kenya videos, and almost a fth (19 percent) (n = 15) for Ghana. These ndings follow much previous research that conrms that the West across a range of media and time periods whether via news agencies or explorers accounts tends to represent Africa to the rest of the world. Nearly a quarter (21 percent, n = 41) of those posting Kenya videos did not identify a home country; for Ghana it was 5 percent (n = 4). Complete results are reported in Table 1. If we take into account the number of views for videos depending on where the person who posted it claims to be, then western dominance is again revealed
TABLE 1 Country of Person Posting Video Location West Africa Other Doesnt say Total Kenya 65% 8% 6% 21% (n (n (n (n = = = = 125) 16) 12) 41) Ghana 70% 19% 6% 5% (n (n (n (n = = = = 53) 15) 5) 4)

100% (n = 194)

100% (n = 77)

Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

WALL: AFRICA ON YOUTUBE

399

but with some variations. Those posting videos from North America are more likely to have their videos visited than those who are from Europe or Africa, but Africans posting Kenya-related videos tended to generate more views than Europeans. Results are summarized in Table 2.
TABLE 2 Number of Views Based on Region of Person Posting Video Region North America Europe Africa Kenya M = 3605 M = 1425 M = 3107 Ghana M = 8440 M = 3588 M = 2994

Following historical patterns of western information dominance, these ndings should serve to remind us that just because a website appears to be globally accessible, that access continues to be disproportionately skewed not just to the richer countries but the US in particular. Claims that YouTube will change global hierarchies, then, should be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism. Of course, one of the difculties with online research is that we cannot know for certain if people are telling the truth about where they are geographically located. That said, these ndings are not surprising. After all, research suggests most African countries are far from wired, and use of the Internet, much less a video site such as YouTube, is limited. What is interesting is that some Africans self-identify on the YouTube site as being originally from Africa, even though they currently live in the West. The important bridging role of the African diaspora has been noted in the context of a single expatriate making a cell phone available to an entire village through a family member (Tall, 2004). The ndings here suggest that the diaspora may be playing a similar role across technologies, redistributing content originally from their home country or region, and in that way helping raise their home countrys prole.

Focus of Videos
What sort of content did people posting videos to YouTube tend to submit? Entertainment videos prevailed, followed by tourist videos. Complete results are reported in Table 3. Entertainment The most frequent type of content was entertainment, which made up 37 percent (n = 71) of all Kenya videos and 33 percent (n = 25) of all Ghana videos. The increase of private television stations may have contributed to a focus on entertainment content, which would attract larger audiences and be less likely to create political trouble for the person posting it. Authorities who seek to control the media in their own countries generally tend to be less concerned with entertainment content than with political stories. Kenya now has seven different television stations, ve of which
Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

400

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION GAZETTE VOL. 71 NO. 5

TABLE 3 Focus of Videos Focus of video Entertainment Tourist Aid work Religion News Commercials Other Total Kenya 37% (n = 71) 34% (n = 65) 11% (n = 22) 10% (n = 20) 4% (n = 8) 2% (n = 4) 2% (n = 4) 100% (n = 194) Ghana 33% (n = 25) 22% (n = 17) 22% (n = 17) 3% (n = 2) 10% (n = 8) 10% (n = 8) 0% (n = 0) 100% (n = 77)

are privately owned. Ghana has four, two of which are privately owned and another is a privatepublic joint ownership. In some cases, such as Kenyas private station EATV, these new outlets focus on African music with a goal of reaching an urban youth audience. Also, a surge in small scale businesses is said to be partly fueling the rise in music video and other lmed productions in both countries (Hiphop Fusions Fans Grow in Ghana, 2000; Wainaina, 2007). In addition, the arrival of African MTV (called MTV Base Camp), which is not only airing African music videos but is sponsoring a program to train Africans to produce them, may be contributing to the prevalence of music videos above all other genres for these countries. Like music videos elsewhere, these are a means of commodifying the work of African singers and performers. In terms of their style, most videos viewed here were derivative of western, particularly American hiphop music, especially in their objectication of women (Local Music Videos, 2007; Nafula, 2007b). The lack of originality is said to be caused by Africans reliance on western models, and also because their producers aim to appeal to a broader audience, especially one beyond individual countries and even Africa itself (Nafula, 2007a). Indeed, while the arrival of MTV may create a more professional class of video producers, it is also likely to further the inuence of western norms and values in African music videos. In fact, observers of the Kenyan music scene say some artists post to YouTube not for their fellow Africans but in hopes of being discovered by western viewers (Koigi, 2007). Both countries tourism ministries have cited developing the music industry as important to their countrys economic growth (Akon Shoots New Video, 2006; Koigi, 2007). So, the videos may well contribute to the commercial marketing of the country, while doing little to create fresh or original representations of Africa. Also, the dominance of entertainment videos suggests that YouTube content will not necessarily work to educate or inform viewers as has been claimed. That said, however, occasionally music can contain political information; for example, certain songs are even believed to have played a role in dislodging the Kenyan leadership in the 2002 general election (Nyairo and Ogude, 2004). The videos viewed here did not usually appear to contain overt political messages. An exception was the Veve Shanty Kenyan video titled Abortion, which opens with the words, You are killing
Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

WALL: AFRICA ON YOUTUBE

401

an unborn baby, and goes on to vilify abortion clinics to a lively reggae beat. In addition, several Kenya videos featured interviews with artists making political statements about Africa. All of these latter videos were western produced, even if they focused on Africans. For example, Eric Wainain, a Kenyan musician, discussed the political signicance of some of his songs, which focus on corruption and other related problems, with a western television show host. In Ghana, some videos consisted of tributes. For example, one person created a tribute to the historical founding of the GhanaGuineaMali Union with scenes of the countrys leaders at the time: Ghanas Kwame Nkrumah, Guineas Sekou Toure and Malis Modibo Keita. Two subcategories under the entertainment grouping were gospel videos and ctional content from lms and television. Deregulation of broadcasting in particular seems to have enabled both sorts of content to become more prevalent. Gospel videos seem to reect what has been identied as an overall rise in Christian mass communication, particularly television, across Africa (de Witte, 2005; Hackett, 1998; Parsitau, 2006). In Kenya, the Family TV station, owned by the US-based Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), generally rebroadcasts western evangelists but is said to provide a platform for Christian music videos as well. While Ghanaian law prevents religious organizations from owning television stations, religious programming has become ubiquitous in that country in the wake of deregulation of the state-owned media (de Witte, 2005). Television and movie programming also are on the increase in Africa. The Kenya videos included clips from shows created by westerners such as a visit to Africa by two members of a UK pop music group and the reality show travails of a former commando dropped into Kenyas wilds and expected to live off the land. In contrast, Ghanas non-music entertainment videos only featured Africanproduced shows. Tourist Activities The second most frequent type of video were those contributed by tourists, which made up 34 percent (n = 65) of all Kenya videos and 22 percent (n = 17) of Ghana videos. These appear to be digitized 21st-century travel writing, replacing the rather more static postcard home. Not surprisingly, most tourists failed to question their own economic privilege that enables them to capture these scenes of Africa or the technological access that allows them to post accounts of their personal adventures on YouTube. Because the videos varied between the two countries, each country is considered separately. Kenya More than 1 million tourists visit Kenya every year, most headed for the countrys well-known game parks and/or the coastal beaches (Tourism is a Cash Cow, 2007). Their videos reect these destinations but do so in such a way that the country appears as a blank slate in which animals loom large, and modern-day Kenya and its people are rarely seen. For example, videos such as Cheetah and Vulture Lunchtime record those animals eating zebras, yet fail to provide any context for the animals in terms of their relationship to the people of Kenya, its economy or the environment. Instead, the Kenya pictured here seems timeless. Thus, for many
Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

402

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION GAZETTE VOL. 71 NO. 5

tourists, Kenya appears to consist of an Out of Africa scene of wildlife and great expanses of empty land. Of course, western travel writing has historically employed the notion of negation, in which the Other is a an absence, emptiness, nothingness (Spurr, 1993: 92). This negation creates a space for westerners to comfortably provide an explanation or meaning, interpreting what they see not based on understanding the local scene, but upon their own, generally very different, western frameworks. In fact, researchers have long criticized tourist images of Africa as attempting to x the continent in time, tending to create a hermetically sealed environment of villages and traditional rituals while ignoring urban Africa (Bruner and Kirshenblatt-Gimblatt, 1994; Dunn, 2004; Kaspin, 1997). Their criticisms seem particularly relevant in terms of Kenya-themed YouTube videos, as most of these tourists appear to reproduce nearly the exact same nature images in their videos. When Kenyans do appear in these videos, they are often backdrops so that a blonde tourist may pose at the center of an image, surrounded by a group of Kenyans, a supporting cast, if you will. The most frequent human images of Africans are members of the Maasai ethnic group, some of whom earn a living performing for tourists. Thus, there are few markers of the countrys modern-day life other than the vans and other vehicles transporting the western visitors. Ghana Tourists visiting Ghana produced videos that tended to focus much more on the people of the country. This is likely for a couple of reasons. First, Ghana does not have much of a game park industry, and, second, because there is also more of an emphasis on diaspora tourism with such visitors making a pilgrimage to the former slave trading depots on the countrys coast (Challenges of Diaspora Tourism, 2007; Hasty, 2002). Those making a diaspora trip would likely be more inclined to want to focus on humans. Thus, these tourist videos may reect both the fewer numbers of tourists (about 500,000 or half the number Kenya receives) to Ghana as well as the sort of travelers who chose this West African country as their destination (Challenges of Diaspora Tourism, 2007; Hasty, 2002). At least half of the videos are montages, reecting a broader variety of subjects than many of the Kenyan videos, suggesting tourists are visiting a broader spectrum of sites. Videos include cityscapes and street scenes reecting urban life, such as the UK-posted video of Nightlife in Ghana featuring a disco. Interestingly, the tourists appeared less frequently as the stars of their videos. When they do appear, as in a series of slides of a group of British students visiting on a theater exchange program, they are often paired with an African counterpart, embracing, joking or generally being depicted as equals. Nevertheless, many of the Ghana videos still appeared to rely on certain predictable tropes. Several videos emphasized imagery of women engaged in what might be construed as non-modern activities such as a young girl hand pumping water from a well or women with baskets of sh balanced atop their heads. These would appear to reect what Spurr (1993) calls idealization, a process in which the westerners see in another culture a primitiveness that they believe represents that which they have lost in embracing modernity. Interestingly, both Ghana and Kenya tourist videos reect both governments own promotions to outsiders; the original western tropes are repackaged and marketed back to the West,
Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

WALL: AFRICA ON YOUTUBE

403

turned into commodities by African tourism ministries and related private groups to bring in foreign currency. Aid Work This category made up 11 percent (n = 22) of all Kenya videos and double that, or 22 percent (n = 17), of all Ghana videos. Overall, the Ghanaian aid videos tended to be produced by what appear to be smaller, less well-funded efforts than those associated with Kenya, which included large-scale international groups. For Kenya, videos oftentimes explained various international projects aiming to protect wildlife, contribute to Kenyans education, etc. For example, the international environmental group World Wildlife Nature had a video about the various birds in Kenya, while Earthwatch had a video about lions in Tsavo game park. These videos tended to be oriented toward providing information with an underlying message that western groups were working to protect or save Kenya. The Ghanaian videos included several produced as part of a Ghanaian-run development project aimed at getting local kids to create their own documentaries. In such cases, the videos seemed less focused on audiences outside of Ghana, and less oriented toward generating action among audience members than documenting activities. Even Ghanas international videos seemed more focused on creating exchanges, such as the one posted by the Dutch foundation OCEP, which is registered as a Ghanaian non-prot that brings volunteers to work at school, orphanages and clinics, or Momentus International, an American group that promotes international communication and intercultural exchange for youth through art, and which featured Ghanaian youths in development theater-type scenes. The use of YouTube by NGOs and other aid-oriented groups is interesting because it suggests a signicant new distribution channel for these groups. In particular, those whose informational videos appear similar in quality to the professional news outlets, albeit aiming to spotlight their own activities, may be seen by YouTube audiences as little different from a CNN or BBC report, and thus a valid information source. As YouTube currently operates, their fare would have just as much of a chance of coming up on a search of the videos as other sources without a special designation that the NGO-produced video had an agenda or was seeking to directly inuence viewers. Religion Religion videos made up 10 percent (n = 20) of the Kenya videos and 3 percent (n = 2) of the Ghana videos. Religion videos were dominated by western Christians visiting Africa to evangelize. They recorded performances and preaching in venues ranging from small church groups to large, open air events with hundreds in the audience. In the nearly all of the videos, westerners are at the center of attention as the key actors or as narrators framing what is being shown on screen. Africans are generally supporting actors, or are being acted upon. In Africa Mission, 2006, a Scottish minister of The Way Christian Ministries mission proudly details his spiritual
Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

404

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION GAZETTE VOL. 71 NO. 5

crusade to East Africa that saved well over 100 people. He proclaims he is the rst westerner these Africans have heard preach (which seems incongruent with the fact that western evangelists are said to have greatly increased their visits to Kenya in recent years and the fact that two of Kenyas private television stations are religious), but it represents a common thread in many western videos, which is the sense of their creators of the originality of their experiences. Indeed, these Christian westerners are in some ways quite similar to the tourists for whom Africa is a setting for their own personal journey. This suggests that for some visitors, Africa is a place for westerners to conrm their humanity. News/Information This category made up 4 percent (n = 8) of all Kenya videos and 10 percent (n = 8) of Ghana ones. The news and information videos from Ghana were all positive and had more of a development-communication theme to them, focusing on positive news such as a story about a newspaper created for people living in a refugee camp inside Ghana. Kenyas videos included a report from Al Jazeera about Somali refugees, which was also one of the more negative depictions of Kenya, tting with previous research that argues mainstream news media generally focus on Africas problems to the exclusion of more positive stories. The rise of professional news organizations channels on YouTube may lead to their dominance in certain kinds of news about African countries. That said, of the news shows viewed here, only one was from Kenyan television, and only one was identied as from Ghanaian television. While this appears to suggest that these new technologies and new global information channels will continue to support western dominance, it could also be seen as the opening of a new distribution avenue for African news channels to reach well beyond their borders. For example, a visitor to YouTube seeking information about an Africa topic could be exposed to a BBC, an Al Jazeera and a Kenya Nation produced news clip without the video le sharing service identifying or even implying to visitors that one source is more legitimate than another. Commercials Finally, commercials made up 2 percent (n = 4) of Kenya videos and 10 percent (n = 8) of the Ghana videos. The products included music DVDs and canned chopped tomatoes. The Ghanaian videos in particular included a focus on tourists and traveling, including a commercial from Ghana International Airlines and another from a tour company from Philadelphia providing clips of activities and places that tourists buying their trips would experience. This latter type of commercial is interesting in light of the number of tourist-produced videos on YouTube, suggesting a potential future synergy for both the businesses selling and consumers buying African tourism. Indeed, it reects the ways that the videos on these global le sharing services blur boundaries between traditional genre categories in ways that we do not yet fully understand.

Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

WALL: AFRICA ON YOUTUBE

405

Conclusion
The videos for Kenya and Ghana were different in several ways. In terms of content, the key difference seems to be that Kenya-related videos have more of a western orientation. This is seen across genres: in the non-music entertainment videos, western productions lmed in Kenya dominated Kenya-oriented YouTube videos, whereas all the television shows posted for Ghana were African produced. A larger percentage of the posts about Kenya came from tourists and missionaries, groups that for the most part saw Africa as the setting through which to discover themselves rather than the place itself. Fewer of these sorts of visitors were among the Ghana videos. Likewise, Kenyas aid videos were dominated by international, westernbased outts whereas those aid groups associated with Ghana were more likely to be based in-country and focus on grassroots exchanges rather than simply serving as another node of a global operation. Finally, in contrast, Ghana also included more news videos and more commercials than Kenya with Ghanas news videos appearing to be more of the traditional development communication ilk of positive information and uplift. More broadly, the ndings here suggest that YouTube enables the average westerner in particular to become a chronicler of other peoples in faraway lands just as travelers and missionaries discovered Africa in previous centuries. Most of these westerners, although not the ofcial voices of the past, do not offer a remedy to the Othering of Africa. Indeed, many of their contributions to YouTube reinforce and naturalize stereotypes. Those videos that feature Africans as the primary actors are almost all generally entertainment oriented often to the exclusion of seemingly more serious content. Why Africans who post videos stick mainly with entertainment content is an important area for future study because entertainment, which tends to be favored by YouTube visitors in general, may well serve as the primary source of information about other countries for many people. Therefore, Africans creating music videos have much more at stake than promoting their careers. Much of the worlds (particularly young people) very vision of their countries may well be in their hands. In conclusion, this examination of a small slice of the worlds largest and best known video social networking site does not suggest that a new day has dawned for Africa in terms of the structure and ow of global information. What is revealed here is that the age-old inequities still exist and still allow westerners to dominate; although, there is perhaps a broader group of them doing so. That said, YouTube and other such uses of the Internet are providing a small opening for Africans to create and present their own stories to the world or at least to the richer corners of it. Whether that opportunity is pursued to provide a more complicated view of the continents political, social and economic issues, or whether Africans will see public spaces such as YouTube just as most westerners do as another form of entertainment remains to be seen.

Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

406

THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION GAZETTE VOL. 71 NO. 5

References
Akon Shoots New Video in Ghana (2006) Accra Mail/Africa News 30 August; LexisNexis database (accessed 8 January 2007). Benkler, Y. (2006) The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Bruner, E. and B. Kirshenblatt-Gimblatt (1994) Maasai on the Lawn: Tourist Realism in East Africa, Cultural Anthropology 9(4): 43570. Challenges of Diaspora Tourism (2007) Daily Champion/Africa News 23 November; LexisNexis database (accessed 5 January 2007). De Witte, M. (2005) The Holy Spirit is on the Air in Ghana, Media Development; at: www.wacc. org.uk/wacc/publications/media_development/2005_2/the_holy_spirit_on_air_in_ghana (accessed 2 January 2008). Duncan, J.S. and D. Gregory (1999) Introduction, pp. 113 in J.S. Duncan and D. Gregory (eds) Writes of Passage: Reading Travel Writing. London: Routledge. Dunn, K. (2004) Fear of a Black Planet: Anarchy, Anxieties, and Postcolonial Travel to Africa, Third World Quarterly 25(3): 48399. Fair, J.E. (1993) War, Famine, and Poverty: Race in the Construction of Africas Media Image, Journal of Communication Inquiry 17: 522. Fine, A. (2006) Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Friedman, T.L. (2006) The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Frsich, E. and M.B. Robins (2002) Africa.com: The Self-Representation of Sub-Saharan Nations on the World Wide Web, Critical Studies in Media Communication 19(2): 190211. Gareld, B. (2006) YouTube vs the Boob Tube, Wired 14 December; at: www.wired.com/archive/ 14.12/youtube.html (accessed 5 February 2007). Ghana (2007) The World Factbook. Washington, DC: CIA; at: www.cia.gov/library/publications/theworld-factbook/ (accessed 9 January 2008). Hackett, R.I.J. (1998) Charismatic/Pentecostal Appropriation of Media Technologies in Nigeria and Ghana, Journal of Religion in Africa 28(3): 25877. Harding, F. (2003) Africa and the Moving Image: Television, Film and Video, Journal of African Cultural Studies 16(1): 6984. Hasty, J. (2002) Rites of Passage, Routes of Redemption: Emancipation Tourism and the Wealth of Culture, Africa Today 49(3): 4678. Hiphops Fusion Fans Grow in Ghana (2000) Billboard 11 January; LexisNexis database (accessed 5 January 2007). Hunter-Gault, C. (2006) New News out of Africa: Uncovering Africas Renaissance. New York: Oxford University Press. Kaspin, D. (1997) On Ethnographic Authority and the Tourist Trade: Anthropology in the House of Mirrors, Anthropological Quarterly 70(2): 537. Kenya (2007) The World Factbook. Washington, DC: CIA; at: www.cia.gov/library/publications/theworld-factbook/ (accessed 9 January 2008). Koigi, J. (2007) Kenya: Videos Big Hit in New Internet Craze, AllAfrica.com 17 February; at: allafrica.com/stories/200702161106.html (accessed 18 March 2007). Local Music Videos (2007) Ghanaian Chronicle/Africa News 11 September; LexisNexis database (accessed 5 January 2008). Moeller, S.D. (1999) Compassion Fatigue: How the Media Sell Disease, Famine, War, and Death. New York: Routledge. Mudhai, O.F. (2002) The Internet: Triumphs and Trials for Kenyan Journalism, pp. 89104 in M. Robins and R. Hilliard (eds) Beyond Boundaries: Cyberspace in Africa. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Mudimbe, V.Y. (1988) The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. Mutala, S.M. (2003) Cyber Caf Industry in Africa, Journal of Information Science 29(6): 48997. Nafula, N. (2007a) The Power of the Net, East African Standard 26 January; at: www.eastandard. net/mag/mag.php?id=1143964074&catid=123 (accessed 20 March 2007). Nafula, N. (2007b) The Girl in the Video, The East African Standard 19 January; at: www.eastandard. net/mag/mag.php?id=1143963808&catid=123 (accessed 20 March 2007).
Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009

WALL: AFRICA ON YOUTUBE

407

Naim, M. (2007) The YouTube Effect, Foreign Policy JanuaryFebruary; at: www.foreignpolicy.com/ story/cms.php?story_id=3676 (accessed 14 February 2007). Nyairo, J. and J. Ogude (2004) Popular Music, Popular Politics: Unbwogable and the Idioms of Freedom in Kenyan Popular Music, African Affairs 104(415): 22549. Ogundimu, F. (1994) Images of Africa on US Television: Do You Have Problems with That?, Issue: A Journal of Opinion 22(1): 711. Okigbo, C. (1995) National Images in the Age of the Information Superhighway: African Perspectives, Africa Media Review 9(2): 10521. Opoku-Mensah, A. (2004) Twin Peaks: WSIS from Geneva to Tunis: Whither Africa in the Information Society?, International Communication Gazette 66(34): 25373. Parsitau, D.S. (2006) Then Sings my Soul: Gospel Music as Popular Culture in the Spiritual Lives of Kenyan Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 14; at: http://www.usask.ca/relst/jrpc/art14-singsmysoul.html (accessed 17 March 2007). Pieterse, J.N. (1992) White on Black: Images of Africa and Blacks in Western Popular Culture. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Pires, M. (2000) Study-Abroad and Cultural Exchange Programs to Africa: Americas Image of a Continent, African Issues 28(12): 3945. Pratt, M.L. (2000) Imperial Eyes: Studies in Travel Writing and Transculturation. London: Routledge (Orig. pub. 1992.) Rheingold, H. (2002) Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. Boston, MA: Perseus Books. Robins, M. (2002) Are African Women Online Just ICT Consumers?, International Communication Gazette 64(3): 23549. Sonaike, S.A. (2004) The Internet and the Dilemma of Africas Development, International Communication Gazette 66(1): 4161. Spurr, D. (1993) Rhetoric of Empire: Colonial Discourse in Journalism, Travel Writing, and Imperial Administration. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Tall, S.M. (2004) Senegalese Emigres: New Information and Communication Technologies, Review of African Political Economy 99: 3148. Tourism is a Cash Cow that is Only Reluctantly Milked (2007) The Nation/Africa News 13 September; LexisNexis database (accessed 8 January 2007). Wainaina, B. (2007) Generation Kenya, Vanity Fair July: 8894.

Melissa Wall is Associate Professor of Journalism at California State University Northridge. Her research on international news as well as new media has been published in journals such as Media, Culture and Society, New Media and Society, Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism, Journalism Studies and Journal of Middle East Media. Address Department of Journalism, California State University Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St, Northridge, CA 913308311, USA. [email: melissa.a.wall@ csun.edu]

Downloaded from http://gaz.sagepub.com at CALIFORNIA ST UNIV NORTHRIDGE on October 5, 2009