African Arguments’ philosophy is constantly evolving, but we hope this will help explain some of our thinking and approach.
There is a lot to critique about international journalism on Africa. It’s overly simplistic. It’s full of inaccurate tropes. It only focuses on conflict, disease, poverty, and other bad news. It’s dominated by foreign reporters and foreign lenses. And there’s just so little of it…?
We at African Arguments want to combat these problems – which, incidentally, are not all unique to Africa – but our goal is not to correct them per se. Our aim is not to “change narratives”, to “promote” good news stories, or to rebalance the scales by barring non-African writers from our space. Our aim is not to be reactive, always responding to bad foreign journalism – even if to do the opposite – and thus implicitly still doing things on someone else’s terms. We don’t think Africa has anything to prove.
Our goal is far simpler. To contribute to providing something that every locality, nation, region, and continent ought to have and that far too few do: good journalism; nuanced analysis; thought-provoking essays; open and informed debate; engaging and original stories. We want to provide a platform that reflects the diversity of people’s experiences, that is rigorous and relevant, and that shines a light on society.
There are many problems with international journalism on Africa but the issue underlying all these well-known symptoms is that too much of it is, ultimately, bad journalism of one sort or another. The solution, therefore, is good journalism (which is something every society needs and deserves anyway). Good journalism on Africa, for Africa, and on Africa’s terms.
We are happy to critique, but we are more focused on doing. We aim to do good journalism and show what good international journalism on Africa – albeit with stretched resources that force us into difficult decisions and constant compromises – can look like.
Why we predominantly publish African writers
We want our articles to be as nuanced, accurate, and balanced as possible, and to centre Africa and Africans. That requires commissioning writers who understand their topics and the people they affect inside out, who have thought deeply through all the complexities, and who have access to the relevant people and organisations.
We apply the same values and standards to journalism as we think people ought to anywhere, and in our experience, that means commissioning a writer who happens to be African about nine times out of ten, and a non-African writer who nonetheless has a deep and nuanced understanding of the topic at hand the rest of the time. The right to tell people’s stories is earned and the ability to do so meaningfully is hardlearnt, not innate.
Why we are open access and publish on a creative commons license
If knowledge is power, then we want to inform and therefore empower as many people and remove as many barriers to knowledge as possible. That’s why we try hard to make our articles clear and accessible in their language and style, but also why we’re committed to keeping our platform open and why we allow – and encourage – similarly-minded organisations to republish our pieces for free.