African business, politics and lifestyle
At last: a positive look at Africa on U.S. TV
American television audiences were treated on Sunday night for the first time to the show “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”, which is based on the best-selling series of novels set in Botswana by Alexander McCall Smith.
The series, being aired in the United States by HBO, has already been broadcast by the BBC in Britain. Like the novels, it follows the light-hearted adventures of Precious Ramotswe as she seeks to solve mysteries with her keen intuition and big heart.
My colleague Rebekah Kebede did an advance story on the U.S. premier which you can read here.
I have read most of the novels, and the TV premier seems to stick to the spirit of the books. African problems, such as AIDS or the use of body parts from kidnapped children to make traditional medicine, or “muti,” are not swept under the carpet. But many of the tales woven by McCall Smith are uplifting or deal with profound ethical dilemmas that his intrepid lady detective always resolves.
And it takes place in Botswana, a sparsely-populated land of great beauty and spectacular wilderness — I’ve seen elephant herds crossing the highway there — long regarded as a beacon of good governance and democracy in Africa.
It provides a pleasant change from the entertainment industry’s often negative portrayal of Africa. For example, the current season of the Fox thriller “24″ features terrorists from a genocidal African state taking over the White House and threatening the U.S. president.
Botswana, whose economy relies heavily on extensive diamond deposits, no doubt hopes to get a tourism boost from the series’ run in America. A global economic slowdown has slashed demand for diamonds, leading to output cuts in Botswana, the world’s biggest producer of the precious stones, and shrinking government revenues.
What do you think? Is it high time that Africa was shown in a better light? Or do “sunny” treatments of the continent need to be balanced with depictions of its grimmer realities?
(Photo Credit: Keith Bernstein, courtesy of HBO)