CAMRI’s Winston Mano Calls for Decolonising Media Development
Power relations in media development are dominated by those from the resource rich global North. The skewed relations perpetuate coloniality and Western hegemony in the sector. The media development/aid or assistance sector concepts and methods marginalise and silence efforts of “media developes”, mostly in the global South. There is continued tokenism which has overlooked alternatives and promoted liberal media formats and practices. The necessary curative is to decolonise media development for more respectful engagement between actors in the sector.
Winston Mano said the above when he participated in a roundtable, organised by CAMRI’s Susan Abbott, on “Decolonization, Decoloniality, Power and Race: What Civil Society and Media Development Practitioners Can Learn From Academic Scholarship” on the 12 November 2021, as part of the USA’s Posner Centre Symposium 2021 on Shifting Power: Diversity to Decolonisation (https://posnercenter.org/symposium-2021/?mc_cid=cd7ba89641&mc_eid=7cbd9fa7fc). Mano pointed out that global North media developers and assisters need to seriously question and tackle vestiges of coloniality and hegemonic structures of power that are behind today’s inequalities in global communication. Media development NGOs from the global North must embrace other knowledges, including those that challenge hegemonies and frameworks of media democracy anchored in the paradigm of liberalism. Media developers need to unthink and rethink existing relations as well as to reflect deeply on how highly unequal global media development structures can be addressed.
To effectively decolonize and shift power in the media development sector, there is urgent need for media developers to unlearn their privileges and establish an honest relational accountability with those they give aid to in the sector. Mano pushed for lessons from failed projects and rethinking of the foundational ideas, methods. He called for genuine listening to and embracing of efforts and knowledge from “other” contexts where media development takes place.
Mano was also invited as an expert for a Berlin workshop on the topic of “Decolonizing Media Assistance”, held in a collaboration between the University of Munich and the NGO “Media in Cooperation and Transition” (MiCT) from 25-26 November, 2021. In his contribution, Mano refuted the fallacy that media developers from developed countries have “complete” solutions to media problems in the world, arguing that there is need for humility and for them to accept media development knowledge from other contexts. They need to adopt humility in order to learn and unlock innovation from those in societies they deal with. What is needed is disruptive intervention that go beyond superficial subcontracting of locals in media development, to expunge coloniality and develop new partnerships that are based on respectful representation, ethics and moral orders as part of decoloniality. Media development requires public service alternatives that arise from openly acknowledging and tackling historical and current imbalances in media development. Just decolonizing ideas and knowledges will not be far reaching as there is also an urgent need to decolonize the media development infrastructures, institutions and organisations.
Mano was also an invited (C4D) expert for a UNICEF (Ethiopia) (https://www.unicef.org/ethiopia/ ) training on 30 November 2021 where he spoke on how social and behaviour change communication (SBC) could leverage its impact by embracing decoloniality. He pointed out that in many ways the current strategies involve colonial type templates, especially from the global North, that objectify those it engages with. UNICEF’s efforts to transform the life of every child in Ethiopia could work better with a decolonised Afrokological approach. Mano gave examples of Covid strategies for communication and behaviour change, such as isolating and social distancing, that are not easily achievable in resource-poor African contexts. Decolonialising how we operationalize the theory of change, for example, could hlp centre knowledge, voices and energy of those at the margins in SBC. Mano introduced Afrokology as a heuristic tool that can help decolonize SBC in ways that would unlock local input and create a valuable pluriverse of communication knowledge and practices.
Image: Winston Mano