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An African Journey

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Storyline

An African Journey

After four decades of reporting from the continent, Jonathan Dimbleby returns to Africa on a 7,000-mile journey to discover how it is changing. He starts his African journey in the capital of Mali, Bamako, the fastest-growing African city. Following the course of the Niger river, Dimbleby finds not a continent of beggars but of industrious people, some of whom go to extraordinary lengths to make a living, free-diving 20 feet to excavate building sand.

Traveling north-east, he sees how tradition is preserved in an area where a sophisticated urban society has thrived for 1,600 years. Jonathan gets his hands dirty as the apprentice of a 74-year-old mud mason in Djenne, a town built entirely of mud.

On the second leg of his illuminating journey across Africa, Jonathan Dimbleby travels 2000 miles through East Africa's Rift Valley.

Starting in Ethiopia, where he was the first journalist to report the 1973 famine, Dimbleby discovers the great strides being made to safeguard the country from future catastrophes.

On the final leg of his 7,000 mile odyssey, Jonathan Dimbleby travels from Congo to Durban in search of the stories revealing contemporary Africa.

In the edgy sprawl of Kinshasa he rides pillion with unlikely rock and roll icons Staff Benda Bilili and discovers a unique Mozart performing symphony orchestra.

At a party celebrating the Year of the Tiger, he learns how China's billion dollar deals have rebooted African economies, once dependent on Western aid and investment.

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33 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Guest

    I am streaming these for later today...thank you Vlatko, that's just right my alley!
    az

  2. KooKookaChoo

    I have only just begun watching, but less than 20 minutes in I am refreshed and enlightened by this portrayal. I feel that when the only images others are given of Africa are war-torn villages and malnourished, diseased children, the dignity of all those, struggling or not, is lost. (e.g. all those sponsor-a-child commercials)
    I remember when I was young and a girl came to our school who was from Zimbabwe. It was the first time I had ever met anyone who had just moved from Africa, and I asked her if she lived in a mud hut -- she laughed and told me about her life in Zimbabwe and we became fast friends -- but it's always stuck with me how ignorant I was, and all because of the media's depiction of an entire continent (which is made up of over 50 countries, all with their own cultures, histories and identities -- in actual fact, referring to Africa in the singular is very incorrect). I was too young to find out that kind of information for myself, and never having the opportunity to visit and experience these different cultures for myself I relied on these images for my information. What a mistake!
    Yay for multiculturalism, it is probably our best educational tool.
    Cheers!

  3. PavolvsBitch

    OMFG. We're witnessing The African Dream with all its good intentions and inevitable destination. This is the new emerging canabalism of resources parading as capatalism. Yes. Capitalism through the cannablalisation of Africa's resources. By the Chosen for the Chosen. Few. As the American Dream is revealed for the fantasy it always was, so now the chinoafrican dream emerges. With over 100 years of laboratory evidence (USA/Western Europe) to perfect the functioning happy slave to a passion for fashion.

  4. PavolvsBitch

    If you watched further, I mean, with your eyes open, you may have seen the facile and rampant consumerism which has corrupted America, Britain and Western Europe on mega speed development in Africa under UN poster nation, China. Reassuring, not.

  5. PavolvsBitch

    Dimbelby is a humble dumble bee; an id**t posturer. Knowing all the while that it is labour and wealth stolen from The West which supports such 'egalitarian enterprise' in communist china/UN run Afrika.

  6. Mercenarry ForHire

    What a wonderful thing is that we all (Humans) try to succeed and just wanto be Happy, something we often forget....

  7. phillip wong

    You don 't understand. Trade is what will help the world 's poor. The more trade, the better.

  8. phillip wong

    Capitalism actually promote a more fair, and fair resource distributed world. By "egalitarian", it is not nice that the Chinese are helping to develop Africa?

  9. DenEColt

    Couldn't agree more! Also nice to read an intelligent comment on these posts for once!

  10. g isaac

    I'm glad that someone is focusing on hope and not despair in Africa. It does sadden me that the richest continent in the world houses the poorest people on earth. I won't argue the reasons but I think this documentary sheds light on much of it.

  11. wheelnut53

    Did anyone happen to catch the names of those Nigerian Rappers ? I'd buy that song they were singing .

  12. DenEColt

    I don't entirely disagree with your assessment but I don't think you are being fair to African peoples when you describe them as "functioning happy slave[s]". What, they can't partake in frivolity along with the rest of the world?
    The issue of the continent's resources being stolen by the West will only be resolved when internal corruption is curtailed and when the African nations' own politicians and entrepreneurs take a greater, more responsible hand in their economic development. These things take time and, as demonstrated in Western economies, can never be eliminated completely.
    Having watched the complete doco, my impression is that it was a much-needed breath of fresh air when compared to the general news feeds we're subjected to. Of course we can't ignore the terrible inequalities present throughout the continent, but we should try to balance that against the positive and say, yes it can be fixed and by the nations themselves, better, ultimately, than by foreign band-aid attempts.

  13. DenEColt

    Historically, capitalism has shown itself to be pretty much the opposite of fair, especially when it comes to the distribution of profits. That's not to say it can't be made fairer, it's just unfortunate that the biggest companies - mining, oil, produce - have shown themselves to be the least fair, both to their "partners" and their own employees.

  14. blahblahbob

    This was a truly saddening display of Dimbleby. it seems like this whole thing was sponsored by the African board of tourism. it is journalistic spam. there is absolutely no criticism of a country with such an abundant number of human right violations as Ghana? Bull mess! All he does is hang out and blow smoke up the rears of a bunch of rich, greedy African scumbags. i have lost all respect for this man, as a journalist and human.

  15. blahblahbob

    Well said sir, well said.

  16. blahblahbob

    You need to stop taking the word of your econ professors as the word of truth, because you are completely wrong. How do you figure that the permanent underclass of one nation making and marketing sub-par and often unsafe and unnecessary products to the permanent underclass of another nation for the benefit and profit of a couple multinationals and their BODs the key to helping the worlds poor? it will not. But your free to tell yourself whatever it takes for you to sleep soundly at night, i prefer to stick to the truth and valium.

  17. blahblahbob

    you are using what he said out of context. you attached the nasty little word slave to the fact that these people are african to add punch to your argument, but what he was trying to say is that the u.s. and e.u. have made us all happy, fashion loving slaves and now africa's and china's working classes are headed the same way using the same formula we the west have had 100 years to perfect. they are being pacified out of their fair slice of the national pie with opiates of fashion, automobiles, and pop music, just like we, the working classes of the west, have for the past 100 years. do not attach racism to comments that are in no way racist, thats not a valid way of making a point, its red herring logic, which is really no logic at all.

  18. phillip wong

    I see an extreme lack of understanding here. No one is forcing you to buy cheap products which happens to be bad. People buy it because this is what they want. These products exist for a reason, and that reason is people want it, and the market respond according to peoples ' demand.

    This does help the "slave" over time. Again, this shows an extreme lack of understanding on your part. Wages overtime will increase. In China, real wage increase 30% from year to year. With money, they can invest it in the stock market, schools, or buying a house etc.

    Free market do make the world become more equal over time.

  19. phillip wong

    I am sorry, but this is not how the world works. In a competitive sector of the economy, workers work, because they want to work. If a non-Chinese is abused by working for a Chinese company, this person can quit.

    Also, the "partners" are no friends. In real life, partners are tied together by contract. Both parties engage in a contract, because they think they can benefit. The the case of joint ventures, the westerner partners are given some market share in exchange to act as a tutor.

  20. blahblahbob

    like i said my friend, whatever helps you sleep at night...

  21. Simon Edward Driscoll

    Hi Vlatko happy new year!

    J Dimbleby also made a South American Journey in the latter part of 2011. Is there any chance of posting it up sometime?

    Cheers

    Simon

  22. Guest

    The world in interconnected and happens to be mainly driven by consumerism and so the rest of the world will be. People of the large cities control the way of the world, not people living off the land. This trend has been reversed a long long time ago.
    There would be great advantages in harvesting the cultural and ethical values of the Africans population who live off the land, instead what is harvested is the valueable commodities for the benefit of the rich abroad.
    The Corporate world want them richer because that is exactly how the rich get richer.
    We are a long way from having most Africans (and other poor nation inhabitants) earning 5$ a day...the average peasants earns 1-2$...imagine how much a US waitress will earn by the time the average African earns 5$ busting their asss.
    az

  23. Torie

    This is such a wonderful portrayal of a diverse and colourful continent whose culture is hugely overlooked. I'm glad somebody finally made a documentary not about ethnic violence or AIDS or poverty or starvation, but about the beauty of human culture.

  24. Herald

    Africa will sell China her minerals in return for the money and technology that China has used to take over as one of the biggest economy. Then Africa will get its politics together and finally erase the borders and live like one big happy continent. Too bad I'll be long gone before that happens but by God its going to happen.

  25. DenEColt

    Don't go putting words in my mouth! Nowhere have I attributed or assumed racism in my reply to DaftAida's comment. He used the expression "slaves to..." not me, I was merely quoting him; and neither am I misconstruing what he said, I am disagreeing with him.

  26. DenEColt

    Well, if employees have the option of getting another job, they can quit, otherwise they're going straight onto welfare or poverty. So, more often than not, they put up with the abuse in order to keep their job. Workers work because they NEED to work.

    Employment contracts are touted by both corporations and governments as being between two equal parties who stand to gain mutual benefits. The reality is that the contracts are weighted in the employer's favour and the bottom line is "This is the contract. If you want this job sign here. If you don't like the terms, the conditions, the pay scale, fuck off!" Note that this scenario only applies to workers - prospective managers and other senior staff get to call more shots.

    From a government / business perspective, the lower the wages, the better. That's why Western companies outsource work to India, China and South East Asia and they would love to be able to do the same within their own countries except they know the shit would hit the fan big time if they tried to downgrade workers' pay packets even more than they already are, because I don't think any of us in the Western economies are doing too well right now.

  27. adilrye

    Why does every documentary about Africa have to be depressing? Why can't there be anything positive talked about, he's basically saying contrary to popular belief, there is progress in Africa. Jeez...lighten up.

  28. francisco sa

    Thank you BBC and this site also, for this high quality free service you provide, mainly for european countries like mine which really wasted so badly the public money.

  29. blahblahbob

    the conversation this doc sparked on this board was way more entertaining than the doc itself. god bless the right to have your own opinion, even if mine is the only one that's right! hahahaha! happy holidays all you adorably opinionated (not meant as an insult!) people out there in interweb land!

  30. blahblahbob

    you are misconstruing what he said because he never called africans happy slaves, he called the working classes of us/eu that have been subjugated over the years with opiates of fashion the happy slaves. yet the first sentence of your response was i dont think africans would appreciate being called happy slaves. i dont know if you meant that as a bait and switch play on words or whether it was accidental, but you must admit that it makes it sound like daft called the africans happy slaves, which he did not, you were the first to write that, even if it was in a misquote, which i highly doubt.

  31. KooKookaChoo

    But isn't that what he says at the end? That he's done docs in the past that are about the atrocities and human rights violations, the widespread disease and famine -- and that he wanted to do a doc about the other side of Africa we rarely see.
    He says at the very end he wanted to "explore an Africa that is largely unseen" and that the he wanted to go "beyond the images of hunger and disease" and that these images are "not false, but only part of the truth". So that would mean that this portray is also only part of the truth, but is necessary for others to expand their ideas of what Africa is.
    One of the last things he says is that "Africa needs respect, not pity" I think his work here makes that a little more possible. It might be "fluff" but it is still valid. He does mention the histories of the countries he visits, but that was not his focus. The cultures and human-factor are more what is being documented.
    If you want to watch a doc on the negative aspects of African histories, I'm sure you will find enough of those. This one is a gem for it's own reasons. I think you are trying to make this doc something it was never meant to be.

  32. blahblahbob

    i can respect your point, but to do a thirty second wrap up at the end of a three hour multi-part series that most normal viewers will never finish and therefore never even see? his wrap up was kind of retrospect journalism. and i know that the african peoples need real help and not just pity and used clothing donations and that there are a million depressing docs that show starving babies with bloated bellies all covered with flies, im not saying we need more of those. but as a journalist you have certain duties. one is to present all sides fairly. even if you dont want to focus on suffering it cant be overlooked. you also have an obligation to keep your audience informed of your intent throughout such a long presentation. had someone watched a random 50 minute clip of this they may have been slightly offended, because he does not remind the audience of what hes doing and why. i can respect that he wanted to make a doc highlighting some of the good going on in africa, but he didnt find the good. he hung out with the upper classes who are all profiting off the rape and pilage of their land and people. if you want to do good for africa, show me the people working hard in the trenches all day with what little they can gather to make a better life for themselves and their families, dont show me dimbleby hanging out with resource barons and then making a quick aside to a unicef camp for the "look, i really do have a soul" shot.

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