I have to say that I read Uzodinma Iweala's article in The Washington Post with great interest. I agree with everything he says in it as well. Please will Western Politicians, Liberals, Pop Stars and other forms of celebrity stop 'Saving Africa!' Very early in the article he makes this point -
"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."
I can't help feeling he's got this absolutely right. Especially the younger university generation at present seem to think they have to feel guilty about living in a country where they have the privilege of clean water, wealth, comfortable homes and education. This drives them to join any and every "crusade" from "save the planet" through to "stop the genocide in XYZ," zealously embracing the perceived 'cause' of whoever is behind it. Most have no idea what they are supporting except in the vaguest sense, most have no more knowledge than what they've read in posters or articles put out by the publicists who write these things with an eye on getting people to part with loads of money for the latest "aid" project.
Mr. Iweala touches on some of this in his article, but one thing I note he hasn't mentioned. This is that many of these "Aid" organisations are now multinational corporations operating under the banner of 'charities.' They enjoy the status of 'Non-Governmental Organisations' in receipt of large amounts of taxpayer money handed over by Governments to 'trusted' agencies supposedly not dealing with perceived 'corruption' in the target state. He does point to the fact that many Pop Stars and Celebrities derive huge publicity from their fronting campaigns, but he then goes on to say that they cannot and will not 'Save Africa.' In fact they are hindering its own efforts to do so.
As he rightly asks -
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?
He is absolutely right to ask these questions. Africans are grateful for the help they receive, but let's give them some credit as well. Many of the problems they face today are the result of well intentioned efforts to impose governments and systems on Africans that are not native to them and have no roots there. Many of the economic problems arise from a lack of understanding of the way things operate in their cultures (Note the plural!).
I can only endorse his closing statement -
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.
We have to stop trying to 'save' Africa. We need to work with Africans, to provide them with the tools and the expertise - and then let them work out their own solutions.