I must compliment you on Why I had to turn down Band Aid (19 November). Most people talk or write about Africa as though it were a single unitary state and appear to be unaware that there are 54 countries (or 58 counting the islands) in this very large continent. It is also very apropos that you point out that that seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa.
I first went to Africa in 1966 for a six-month shoot on part of a documentary series for CBS-TV in New York, travelling down the east of Africa from Cairo to Cape Town and missing out only Somalia. I was ashamed of my ignorance and became angry at educational authorities for having virtually nothing in the curriculum I studied about African history. This was aggravated even further when I recently discovered Max Hasting’s statistics in All Hell Let Loose on the Commonwealth troop losses in the second world war: British losses were approximately 340,000. Commonwealth losses were 550,000.
Of course, most of the programmes that I worked on in Africa over the next 45 years were about famine, disease or war, so I have contributed to this image of Africa. Very few programmes ever feature the magical beaches of, for example, Angola and Mozambique, or the ancient heritages of Ethiopia, Benin, Mali, among others. It is further interesting that Paris has a museum solely for African art (well worth a visit) while London has none.