With its new social radio, DW is combining the strengths of a well-established Africa-focused current affairs program with the outreach and immediacy of social media. Claus Stäcker explains what's behind the new format.
The vast majority of our journalists are African and we employ more than a hundred correspondents and stringers across the continent. We are genuinely dismayed when somebody suggests that we just disseminate the usual cliches about Africa, like some Western media.
We don't, of course, do anything of the sort. We cannot, of course, rule out that our colonial-shaped European mindset intervenes occasionally when planning programs for and about Africa. That relatively small expanse of water known as the Mediterranean which divides us, often with fatal consequences, is not the only barrier between our two neighboring continents.
AfricaLink does not only wish to inform, it is also seeking to open and maintain dialogue as well. Social media have revolutionized mass communication worldwide, perhaps more profoundly in Africa than anywhere else. Africa's autocratic rulers now find that their propaganda is blunter at the edges and former colonial powers are discovering that their version of history is now more exposed to challenge than before. Missionaries of every persuasion face uncomfortable questions from their flocks and the truth as proclaimed by liberation groups is no longer beyond dispute.
Through social media, we are able to witness Africans rediscovering their past and interpreting it according to their own standards and values. Unchartered territory is being mapped out, the power to interpret one's own history is being reclaimed, there is a desire for emancipation and a growing resistance to outside interference. When seven white girls - missionaries - shot an absurd, insulting video, a wave of protest rumbled through the web. When a volunteer wrote a silly racist report about her time in Zambia, the reaction on Facebook and Twitter was seismic. Since then there's been much debate about the "white savior" syndrome. Even renowned media houses like CNN have been forced to back pedal by mass outrage on social media. The broadcaster had referred to Kenya dismissively as a "hotbed of terrorism." #SomeoneTellCNN forced the media giant to retract.
There would never have been regime change in Burkina Faso if activists hadn't been campaigning vigorously on social media against the old order. Corrupt presidents like Jacob Zuma are now constantly exposed to attack by hashtag. But even African Twitter stars such as President Magufuli can fall foul of the medium that once brought them fame and popularity if they depart from the straight and narrow. There are also dozens of hashtags, many of them pan-African, in which the continent laughs at itself.
The 'Africa rising' narrative is not being spun by Chinese state-run media, even though they like to maintain that it is. The 'Africa rising' narrative is also not being delivered by Deutsche Welle. The African perspective on events is now being spread by ordinary Africans themselves, faster, with greater self-confidence and more fury than ever before, via Facebook, Twitter, Viber, and WeChat.
Deutsche Welle has been broadcasting to Africa for more than half a century. It is greatly trusted by its audience. Today with the opening of a dedicated DW Africa Facebook account and the launch of a new look AfricaLink, Deutsche Welle is entering the era of social radio and dialogue, in which we view our listeners, users and viewers as partners.