Multitalented TV host Adesewa Josh was recently unveiled as the host and face of the TRT World new TV segment, Africa Matters. In this interview she shares her plans for setting the African narrative straight as she debuts her news show every Friday on www.trtworld.com, and how her years of experience reporting quality news, education and multi-cultural knowledge has prepared her to meet this opportunity with fervour.
For such a long time, African stories have either been untold or under-reported due to underexposure or interests from some media. This has affected the viewpoint of the world on Africa. How do you hope to change some of these unfounded long existing narratives about the continent?
By using my platform to tell our stories with the right nuances. You see, the problem isn’t just about the negative coverage of Africa, it’s about how the stories are told. A huge part of any storytelling process is the newsgathering. A slight misstep in newsgathering can distort the facts in a subtle but substantial way. That’s why the best way to capture the essence of a story is to allow the people at the heart of it drive it.
That’s what Africa Matters is all about. It’s a show about Africa, by Africans, and presented to the world. We want to help our viewers understand what’s really true about what they may have read or heard about any issue on the continent. We want them to hear from the people driving the story and from the continent’s newsmakers.
What is your take on the issues that wrong narratives pose for Africa and Africans?
I recently moderated an Africa panel where one of the attendees asked if Africans now have clean water to drink. He said he’s been told repeatedly that Africa still needs wells and wants to know how many more are needed before clean water goes round.
Wrong narratives imprison the subject of a story and anyone or anything associated with it. It can negatively affect a wide range of social interactions from interpersonal relations to business associations. While it’s incumbent on the rest of the world to educate themselves about Africa, preferably by traveling and reading books, not by one google search, we as Africans must tell our own stories too. No one else can do it better.
These problematic narratives exist because African storytellers are under-represented in many international newsrooms. That needs to change. We must write and tell our own stories. We must educate the world.
As a multi-award winning journalist who has dedicated her years in journalism to reporting quality news, Africa Matters is your first show on an international cable news network. How big of a deal is this for you.
It’s a big deal and a dream come true on many levels. When I started my journalism career about a decade ago, I knew I wanted to tell our stories to the rest of the world. Why? Because our stories have long been told by other people. Our history, bravery, wars, and conquests have all been told by far too few scholars from the continent. What’s worse, we’re often never in the room when important decisions about narratives are made. Many of these stories I find compelling, others simply lack the obvious—nuance.
TRT World management has decided to extend its Africa coverage through Africa Matters and I can’t help but feel lucky to be championing the vision with my team.
As one of the champions of the vision to strike a balance in African storytelling on the international media scene, what would you say are the important stories Africa should tell the rest of the world in ensuring positive narratives?
I think it’s important not to confuse positive narratives with peddling propaganda. Our commitment is simply to tell all of our stories, leaving nothing out or anyone. Not a single one will get a disproportionate dose of coverage. All I’m saying in essence is that we are paying a significant amount of attention to balance. We’ll tell it all; the best, the good, and the ugly.
Can you share with us, some of the fundamental issues that might militate against getting a balanced narrative about Africa to the public eye?
What is news? Anything out of the ordinary and in our world that’s often bad news. These days, the media is inundated with bad news. According to a Huffington Post research on news consumption, people are becoming increasingly inured to sad news. That’s why many cable news networks are gravitating towards news of hope and inspiration, for the very same purpose they did gory news—ratings.
As a journalist of colour, I see an enormous opportunity here to flip the narratives on African stories. By riding the current global wave of inspiring news, we can easily convince editors and newsroom directors when pitching our stories. That way, everyone wins.
To answer your question, many see Africa as an endless go-to-source for bad news, and as long as such narratives drive ratings, it’d be preferred. I’m excited to say things are changing and that there’s a huge demand for our “other” news too.
Let’s talk about your initiative – Project Smile Africa. Can you tell us more about that, what does this initiative focus on?
In 2011, I decided to be part of the solution to some of the issues I report on. One such issues is the prevalence of teenage pregnancy and its impact on girls education on the continent. I started Project Smile Africa to help young girls from low-income communities make better choices. My team and I target girls from these communities and tailor our outreaches to their needs. Our research shows these girls need inspiration and psychosocial support more than they actually need money. We provide incentives to keep them in school and organise counselling sessions on why education is their way out of poverty
Please visit www.projectsmileafrica.com for more information, to donate and or volunteer.
Conversations on social media with the trending hashtag #AfricaMattersWithAdesewa already show how excited Africans are about your news show. How can readers on this platform view the show?
TRT World’s a very digital friendly cable news network. We understand the future of television is digital and so we’ve positioned the station accordingly. Our viewers across Africa can watch the show every Friday 12:15GMT on TRT World’s free-to-air cable and satellite platforms like the LG Smart TV Satellite and TSTV. These two platforms have a wide reach in Nigeria and several East African countries. Our viewers in the horn of Africa can watch on habeshaview TV. TRT World is available on Roku, Opera TV, and many other smart TV devices.
Better still, just go to www.trtworld.com and you can also view the show on our Youtube channel.