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In the Newsroom

November 10, 2008
Probing behind the Obama photo ops

A Chinese worker on a crane in Tanzania.

Worldfocus anchor Martin Savidge writes about the importance of multi-layered coverage of Africa and elsewhere.

Last week, the world celebrated the historic election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. But now that the votes are in, the party is over.

The economic crisis has returned to the headlines, the war in eastern Congo has intensified and the cameras have even left the Kenyan villages that marked the occasion with a national holiday.

Last Thursday, I interviewed Sarjoh Bah of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation about the desire from Africans to change the existing humanitarian relationship between the U.S. and Africa, expanding into more of a strategic partnership.

As a foreign correspondent, I reported from dozens of countries, but never once stepped foot on the African continent. The networks just didn’t cover it.
And when they did, the images that dominated the news were war, poverty and hunger — not all too different from today.

But as Bah explained, there are enormous amounts of opportunity in Africa — an expanding middle class and increased trade and investment from China and India.

In 2007, the U.S. imported more oil from Africa than the Middle East. By 2015, it is projected that 25 percent of U.S. oil will likely come from Africa.

Obama’s familial roots in Kenya are significant, but coverage shouldn’t stop there. And while hunger, poverty and war are serious challenges in parts of Africa, there’s also another world embodied within the continent — an emerging global presence.

I think it’s important to sometimes go beyond tired images and photo ops — they’re helpful, but as entryways and opportunities to look deeper.

– Martin Savidge

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