The West's Nigeria coverage is perfectly described by this one anecdote: Nigerians live with Boko Haram's terrorism for five years, and when the western media finally takes notice, it latches onto a hashtag and wrongly identifies the creator of the hashtag as an American woman. This is just one of several examples about the lack of nuance that characterizes western coverage of African countries.
If you haven't been following the story closely, last month the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 230 school girls between the ages of 16 and 18 from a boarding school in northern Nigeria. The group has been operating in Nigeria for over five years, but the recent mass kidnapping, along with the ineffectiveness of the government in rescuing the girls, proved a tipping point. The kidnapping gained global attention in part thanks to the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag. Our coverage has reflected the oversimplified and paternalistic narrative western countries have of Africa, a narrative that underestimates the damage of colonialism and overestimates the ability of those former colonizers to help at the same time.
The 'White Savior' motif
Someone out there figured out that Americans are slightly more likely to care about something if there's a Twitter hashtag associated with it, and American filmmaker Ramaa Mosley decided to take credit for the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag that has symbolized the world's concern for the more than 200 girls kidnapped last month. But as The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, the hashtag was actually created by a Nigerian Muslim man. Oh, and Mosley just happens to have a documentary coming out soon about the struggle to educate young girls around the world, similar to the girls who were kidnapped from their school.