Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Africa for Norway: Using Humor to Encourage Looking Beyond the "Feel Good" Solutions to Poverty

The group Africa for Norway is using humor to criticize simple, stereotypical relief campaigns that use "feel good" tactics to aid Africa.

The campaign's website declares
Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway” video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?
If we say Africa, what do you think about? Hunger, poverty, crime or AIDS? No wonder, because in fundraising campaigns and media that’s mainly what you hear about.
The pictures we usually see in fundraisers are of poor African children. Hunger and poverty is ugly, and it calls for action. But while these images can engage people in the short term, we are concerned that many people simply give up because it seems like nothing is getting better. Africa should not just be something that people either give to, or give up on.
The truth is that there are many positive developments in African countries, and we want these to become known. We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa’s development. If we want to address the problems the world is facing we need to do it based on knowledge and respect.
A key paragraph elsewhere on the site reads
Aid must be based on real needs, not “good” intentions.
Aid is just one part of a bigger picture; we must have cooperation and investments, and change other structures that hold back development in poorer countries. Aid is not the only answer.
This is clearly a dig at groups like Invisible Children and there so-so Kony 2012 campaign.  Also targeted are more concrete efforts documented in the documentary Good Fortune.  Good Fortune examined how a private river damming project and United Nations slum redevelopment was being used to advance the interests of well connected people at the cost of other locals.

Aid is more than just a hand out.  It should be a hand to help lift one up.  Groups like the Acton Institute attempt to use free market techniques guided by religious principals to support smart international development.  Microloans encouraging local empowerment also shows promise.  Smart aid will help.  Dumb aid will only create more reserve-Africa for Norways.

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