This week the White House has gathered dozens of heads of state from across Africa for a summit in Washington, DC. It has the potential to raise some interesting issues about economic development, major corporations and debates over human rights and the US-led war on terrorism.
But the Sunday chat shows had a strange way of doing this. CBS's Face the Nation (8/3/14) tapped CEO and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as its Africa expert, sitting alongside White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Bloomberg– who is sponsoring some of the summit events–stressed the need to talk about business: "The goal is to explain to Americans the opportunity and American businesses the opportunity in Africa, to explain to the African continent why they should look to America for commerce, for education, for medical care."
Bloomberg played down politics as being unimportant to businesses: "They never get involved in ideology. They just look for markets." The hundreds who turned out to protest the presence of US-allied dictators and human rights abusers (New York Times, 8/5/14) could have provided a different take on the issue of whether politics matter.
But talking about such issues wasn't the point. Indeed, there wasn't much talk of Africa at all; the CBS segment actually spent more time talking about his support for Israel's attack on Gaza.
Over on ABC"s This Week (8/3/14), host George Stephanopoulos invited two Africans to discuss the summit, Nigerian singer D'Banj and Dr. Sipho Moyo of the One Campaign. This surely adds more diversity to the discussions. Unfortunately, Stephanopoulos–perhaps in a bid to give US viewers a reference point–introduced D'Banj as "the man they call Africa's Bono."
It's quite unlikely the chat shows will devote much more time to Africa this year, so it's disappointing that viewers heard from an American billionaire and a performer they're told is a lot like Bono.