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What the Hell is Going on at the ‘African Executive?’

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Has the African Executive culled all of its editorial staff? Do they actually solicit articles or do they simply allow anyone to write in to their comment pages?

I came across Sabella Ogbobode Abidde’s article yesterday, and my initial impression was incredulence, but after reading it, my main impression was rage. Incandescent, righteous, pass-me-my-shotgun rage.

But not because of the article, oh no. I could wax lyrical on what is wrong with Mr. Abidde’s viewpoint, but that is not what got my slappy hand twitching. What most angered me about the article was that is was published at all.

The African Executive describes itself as

the market leader in opinion and analysis on Africa’s socio-political and economic development.

Really? Well, what did the article have to do with any of that? After strenuous and highly complex quantative and qualitative analysis, the answer is “diddly squat.”

In addition, under the “Editorial Procedures” heading, you can find the statement that

The AE has the right to edit for style, clarity, space allotment, and to make final selection on headlines, subheads, and graphic treatment.

Well, my darlings, rights are only worth having if you’re going to exercise them when necessary. Where was the editorial control for the article? The thing was a shambles! Just a few points:

  • The article cited a previous article by another author, yet the title of the cited piece was not given, nor was a link provided to enable readers to find it
  • The article provided no original research, nor did it quote any authoritative sources, despite there being a wealth of information available if anyone cares to go looking
  • Generalisations and personal opinions were stated as facts, which is acceptable in comment pieces, except in circumstances such as this, where they are not presented as such

The tone of the article was such that it read like the confused ramblings of a recently-jilted teenager’s diary, rather than a comment piece by a PhD candidate at a prestigious university. Regardless of the talents of the author, a good editor would have removed the worst of the hysteria. Do the African Executive editors really imagine that none of their readers are women? This is neither the time nor the place for it, but I could happily go on a rampage through some of the worst misogyny in the piece. I can’t imagine that it serves the magazine’s bottom line to alienate a sizable chunk of its readership, but that is the effect such a piece will have on female readers such as myself, for whom this article was as incongruous as it was unwelcome.

I read articles from the African Executive because I want to know about the business environment in Africa. I read it because I want up-to-date, useful information on African businesses and the wider diaspora. I do not read it because I want the opinions of a (possibly) charming and eligible man on the dating scene for US-based expats. If I wanted relationship advice, I would read Essence. For bad dating advice, I’d pick up a copy of Cosmopolitan.

There is room for personal comment in business magazines, and there is also room for articles relating to people’s romantic lives. However, they should at least have some bearing on a magazine’s stated purpose and mission statement, and they should also be edited to make sure that the worst of a writer’s excesses are curbed. This article could have been published around Valentine’s Day, or perhaps as a piece on the economic costs of diaspora dating, yet neither of these angles seem to have been explored.

The African Executive website does not name a managing editor, or any other supervisory staff. Perhaps this is just as well, for I would have called out each and every one of them for their lackadaisical editorial approach and shoddy standards. I only hope that this was one isolated, aberrant, completely out-of-character and illogical move by the editorial team. Otherwise, I’m afraid I will have to drop the magazine from my “To Read” list.

[Image by LuluP]

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