Africans on Twitter are expressing outrage at the British Broadcasting Corporation over its coverage of the Coronavirus pandemic in Africa, which they say had been racist, negative and propagates harmful stereotypes about the continent.
The BBC had in a series of reports from the start of the pandemic to date presented reasons why the Coronavirus will either wreck havoc on the continent or why Africans were not dying enough from the pandemic using headlines such as ,“Coronavirus in Africa: Contained or unrecorded?”, “Coronavirus in South Africa: The lullabied before the surge?, Coronavirus: Could African countries cope with the outbreak? among others.
Trouble, however, started on Thursday when the verified Twitter handle of BBC Africa posted a story with another headline linking low death rates on the continent to poverty.
It reads, “Coronavirus in Africa: Could poverty explain mystery of low death rates?”
The report written by BBC Africa Correspondent, Andrew Harding, said in part, “Crowded townships, poor hygiene. The impossibility of social distancing in communities, where large families often share a single room. For months health experts have been warning that living conditions in poor, urban communities across Africa are likely to contribute to a rapid spear of Coronavirus…but what if the opposite is also true? What if those same crowded conditions also offer a possible solution to the mystery that has been perplexing experts on the continent for months.
“What if- and this is putting it rather crudely - poverty proves to be the best defence against Covid-19.”
Incensed by the report and seeming association of Africa with poverty, Africans reacted by questioning the motive behind the story.
@Maaziezeoke said, “Can you stop this insults! You predicted we will all die because of lack of healthcare facilities, to your disappointment we survived, Now we have low death rate because of poverty?”
Ugandan journalist, Walter Mwesigye, said, “Dear @BBCAfrica, Africa has scientists (HIGHLY QUALIFIED) just like the rest of the world who adequately advise us (Natives) on the best practices. Poverty is a global challenge otherwise the poor in the United Kingdom would be non-existent by now. Shame on you!
Zimbabwean marketer @PTChimusoro said, “This is insulting. It really pains you that Africa has survived what you thought would be the worst attack on it. But still, we are Africa, we move. You can sit there and write long articles filled with version, but we don’t care, we’ve survived worse things. We are AFRICA.”
Former Nigerian Senator @ShehuSani tweeted, “Then why are the poor in the West dying?”
A professor of Archeology, Cathrine D’Andrea, wondered why BBC Africa failed to investigate what people were doing right on the continent that had worked.
She tweeted, “Is this for real? It seems they always find a way to cover African news in a negative light. Even if it is good news! Hey @BBCAfrica why not investigate what people are doing right—physical distancing and regulation of travel etc. It is possible to enact these measures in rural areas with effective communication and strong social networks.”
Nigeria’s former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, said, @BBCAfrica What’s this? What branch of The Science of Global Pandemics is this blatantly perjorative? I can’t imagine that your editor approved this headline. Do better, please.”
Meanwhile, Harding, who wrote the story has defended his depiction of Africa, saying he stands by it.
He said, “I’m trying to follow and explore the science. The experts here are confused about what is happening with Africa’s pandemic. Hypotheses are being tested. End of story. I’m sorry if anyone felt offended by the headline. I stand by my reporting.”