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Old 11-07-2007, 02:10 PM
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Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa

article is a few months old, but i thought it was good.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...071301714.html

Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa
By Uzodinma Iweala
Sunday, July 15, 2007; Page B07

Last fall, shortly after I returned from Nigeria, I was accosted by a perky blond college student whose blue eyes seemed to match the "African" beads around her wrists.

"Save Darfur!" she shouted from behind a table covered with pamphlets urging students to TAKE ACTION NOW! STOP GENOCIDE IN DARFUR!

My aversion to college kids jumping onto fashionable social causes nearly caused me to walk on, but her next shout stopped me.

"Don't you want to help us save Africa?" she yelled.

It seems that these days, wracked by guilt at the humanitarian crisis it has created in the Middle East, the West has turned to Africa for redemption. Idealistic college students, celebrities such as Bob Geldof and politicians such as Tony Blair have all made bringing light to the dark continent their mission. They fly in for internships and fact-finding missions or to pick out children to adopt in much the same way my friends and I in New York take the subway to the pound to adopt stray dogs.

This is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Perhaps most interesting is the language used to describe the Africa being saved. For example, the Keep a Child Alive/" I am African" ad campaign features portraits of primarily white, Western celebrities with painted "tribal markings" on their faces above "I AM AFRICAN" in bold letters. Below, smaller print says, "help us stop the dying."

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. News reports constantly focus on the continent's corrupt leaders, warlords, "tribal" conflicts, child laborers, and women disfigured by abuse and genital mutilation. These descriptions run under headlines like "Can Bono Save Africa?" or "Will Brangelina Save Africa?" The relationship between the West and Africa is no longer based on openly racist beliefs, but such articles are reminiscent of reports from the heyday of European colonialism, when missionaries were sent to Africa to introduce us to education, Jesus Christ and "civilization."

There is no African, myself included, who does not appreciate the help of the wider world, but we do question whether aid is genuine or given in the spirit of affirming one's cultural superiority. My mood is dampened every time I attend a benefit whose host runs through a litany of African disasters before presenting a (usually) wealthy, white person, who often proceeds to list the things he or she has done for the poor, starving Africans. Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe. Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head -- because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West's fantasy of itself. And not only do such depictions tend to ignore the West's prominent role in creating many of the unfortunate situations on the continent, they also ignore the incredible work Africans have done and continue to do to fix those problems.

Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been "granted independence from their colonial masters," as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?

Two years ago I worked in a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria, survivors of an uprising that killed about 1,000 people and displaced 200,000. True to form, the Western media reported on the violence but not on the humanitarian work the state and local governments -- without much international help -- did for the survivors. Social workers spent their time and in many cases their own salaries to care for their compatriots. These are the people saving Africa, and others like them across the continent get no credit for their work.

Last month the Group of Eight industrialized nations and a host of celebrities met in Germany to discuss, among other things, how to save Africa. Before the next such summit, I hope people will realize Africa doesn't want to be saved. Africa wants the world to acknowledge that through fair partnerships with other members of the global community, we ourselves are capable of unprecedented growth.
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Old 11-07-2007, 03:41 PM
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Re: Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa

i wonder if this guy said anything to that white girl at the beginning of the story.

but yeah, i would totally agree w/ that sentiment. let africa save itself. if it succeeds, then great. if not, well... thats their problem isn't it? the only point at which i think we should get involved is if their problems threaten to destabilize regions outside of africa.
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Old 11-07-2007, 11:13 PM
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Re: Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa

Replace "Africa" with any other non-Western region of the world and this article would still apply quite nicely, specific details not withstanding. China (and much of the rest of Asia) is a good example of course.
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Old 11-08-2007, 12:28 AM
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Re: Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by VV o n g B a View Post
but yeah, i would totally agree w/ that sentiment. let africa save itself. if it succeeds, then great.
I don't think that was his point at all.

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by VV o n g B a View Post
if not, well... thats their problem isn't it? the only point at which i think we should get involved is if their problems threaten to destabilize regions outside of africa.
The world is global and interconnected now. This isn't a few hundred years ago where what happened in Sudan stayed in Sudan where the oceans pretty much isolated one country from another. Diseases that go unchecked in Sudan can suddenly spread if somebody gets on a plane, etc...
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Old 11-08-2007, 07:01 AM
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Re: Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by Napoleon Chynamite View Post
Replace "Africa" with any other non-Western region of the world and this article would still apply quite nicely, specific details not withstanding. China (and much of the rest of Asia) is a good example of course.
yes. but then, not many westerners go about trying to "save" ppl in china or the rest of asia in the same sense except maybe those ppl looking to adopt kids. and not everyone on this board is totally comfortable about that.

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by haplesshobo
I don't think that was his point at all.
from the article:
"I hope people will realize Africa doesn't want to be saved. Africa wants the world to acknowledge that through fair partnerships with other members of the global community, we ourselves are capable of unprecedented growth."
is that not letting africa save itself? did he not want ppl to acknowledge that africans are already administering aid to their own continent and stop looking down on it? this guy wants respect and wants to earn it. i say right on, DO IT!

QUOTE:
Originally Posted by haplesshobo
The world is global and interconnected now. This isn't a few hundred years ago where what happened in Sudan stayed in Sudan where the oceans pretty much isolated one country from another. Diseases that go unchecked in Sudan can suddenly spread if somebody gets on a plane, etc...
that would be a freak incident and could happen w/ or w/o western aid. in fact, increased western aid might instigate such an incident as the aid workers would eventually fly back home.

until they demonstrate they are capable of taking care of themselves on some level for a period of time, i think outsiders aiding africa are throwing good money after bad. their aid is helping prop up shitty regimes just as much as china's investments are b/c they lessen the suffering of ppl w/o making them doing anything. if ppl aren't suffering, they'll have less reason to go out and push for positive change. i think one of the best ideas was microloans. if they have a good idea, lend them a bit of money to go do it. they'll work to repay it and everyone benefits. they'll have an investment to protect if things become unstable and they'll go out and fight for change themselves. but don't let them off the hook. don't treat them like dumb kids and forgive their debt if they can't pay. if they can't pay it back, don't lend to them until and unless they can demonstrate they've got a better idea and can get u ur money back.
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Last edited by VV o n g B a; 11-08-2007 at 07:07 AM.
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