Africa is many things to many people, but what if it was a bar?
What started with a call-out from a young Botswanan writer quickly sparked a Twitter debate about the state of African geopolitics.
Siyanda Moutsiwa, a 22-year-old from Gaborone, thought she’d take “a classic writing prompt” – used in workshops to imagine character interaction – and apply it to the whole continent.
Twitter did not disappoint.
The economy, colonialism, imperialism and corruption were satirized with a heavy dose of wry humor – extravagant fashion didn’t escape unscathed either.
A geopolitical barometer
There was a serious point to all this gentle ribbing.
“A lot of trending topics on African Twitter tend to be negative; it’s usually people complaining,” Moutsiwa told CNN. “I thought it would be fun to do something we all participated in that was light-hearted and educational for everyone involved.”
“We’re very lucky to have social media now; there were a lot of Africans that did not know about each other [before].”
Speaking of Botswana, Moutsiwa saif she “didn’t know about the stereotypes people had of my country” in the era before social media. Discussing these stereotypes in a friendly and open environment offers “the opportunity to correct them.”
“Africans on social media are dying for opportunities to talk about Africa,” she continued, adding that the hashtag provided “a safe space to do that, without being spoken down to by international media.”
There’s also a deeper meaning behind this project. Trends such as #IfAfricaWasABar “allows us to give a reading of the political system all over the continent,” Moutsiwa said.
“A lot of Africans think this is the era of Afro-pessimism, but there’s people like me who believe in a unified and self-sufficient continent… I’m going to try my best to use social media and other writing platforms to get young people involved in this dream.
“There’s hope, but people need to participate in it.”
So if Africa is a bar, who’s frequenting it, and what are they up to?
Some patrons are prone to grand entrances:
There’s dodgy dealings in the bathrooms…