“They seek Africa as a territory to try and help solve the problems they created. When they propose mechanisms like REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) they are actually trying to carbon colonise the continent using our forests to sink, to sequestrate the emissions, the carbon that they create in the Western world. I think they are using Africa the same way they used Africa in the past, to colonise it, to subjugate their people.”
Mallence Bart-Williams talks to Berlin about Sierra Leone – the richest country in the world, in nature, people, culture, treasures, minerals…and stamps.
“Of course the West needs Africa’s resources, most desperately. To power aeroplanes, cellphones, computers and engines. And the gold and diamonds of course. A status symbol to determine their powers by decor and to give value to their currencies.
One thing that keeps me puzzled, despite having studied finance and economics at the world’s best universities, the following question remains unanswered. Why is it that 5,000 units of our currency is worth 1 unit of your currency, where we are the ones with actual gold reserves?
It’s quite evident that the aid is in fact not coming from the West to Africa, but from Africa to the Western world. The Western world depends on Africa in every possible way, since alternative resources are scarce out here.
So how does the West ensure that the free aid keeps coming? By systematically destabilising the wealthiest African nations and their systems, and all that backed by huge PR campaigns, leaving the entire world under the impression that Africa is poor and dying and merely surviving on the mercy of the West. Well done Oxfam, UNICEF, Red Cross, Live Aid and all the other organisations that continuously run multimillion dollar advertising campaigns depicting charity porn to sustain that image of Africa globally.”
Last night Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture at PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature.
In the Q&A session afterwards, she said:
“You know I’ve actually found that the older I get, the less interested I am in how the West sees Africa, and the more interested I am in how Africa sees itself. I used to spend a lot of emotional energy being angry, but now I’m actually much more interested in Kenya covering Nigeria than I am in the U.S. covering Nigeria. And I think there’s a lot changing on the continent… There’s the fact for example that a foreign journalist comes to Nigeria and a Nigerian journalist wants to get an interview with the Nigerian President, the foreign journalist is more likely to get the interview. That’s a problem. How do we solve it? We need to just stop being stupid…
The idea that what happened in Paris was in the front cover of newspapers in the U.S., and what happened in Nigeria wasn’t. There are practical things to me. There’s that it’s harder to get access to the parts of Nigeria that’s been overrun by Boko Haram. It’s much easier to go to Paris. But also I think that we need to talk about who’s telling the story. I think that the people who make the decisions in the newsrooms just feel a closer affinity to France than they do to Nigeria. It doesn’t make them bad, it just is what it is. I wish that Boko Haram had been on the cover of every African newspaper. But it wasn’t, and that’s what I want to talk about truthfully…
I want to say that I’m becoming this sort of isolationist person, but I’m not. I do think that the West matters. I do think that engagement matters. But increasingly I’m not as interested as I used to be in this idea that somehow the western gaze should be that biding, interesting subject of the people on the continent of Africa. And also what it means then is we start to cut to those really ugly, dangerous colonial ties. But it’s much about a continent that is […] You know people say, ‘You can’t fly [directly], you must go to Paris first from Lagos. There are just things that are outdated, and I just find myself so much more interested in thinking and talking about those things that I am in […] the fact that the coverage of Ebola in the American press was so atrocious. It really was. I don’t want to get started or I’ll go on this whole rant.”
‘In the developing world, the problem of population is seen less as a matter of human numbers than of western over-consumption. Yet within the development community, the only solution to the problems of the developing world is to export the same unsustainable economic model fuelling the overconsumption of the West.’
Read the full article in The Guardian.
Photograph by Brett Cole.
VERY pleased to have stumbled across this documentary film being made:
“What’s behind the West’s fascination with “saving” Africa? FRAMED investigates the images and myths that cast a continent as a victim”
It’s about time that projects like these became mainstream!
In Good Magazine, an article by Dana Driskill says of the documentary:
An increasing number of Americans are volunteering abroad. The New York Timesreports that an estimated 1 million Americans go overseas to volunteer each year, and African countries are the most popular destinations for these trips. Boniface Mwangi, a Kenyan activist profiled in a New York Times Op-Doc video, wants to know: “why?”
The video documents a visit Mwangi made to Carrborro High School in North Carolina, posing this same question. One student tells Mwangi she wanted to volunteer abroad as an advocate for women’s rights in India, Africa, and the Middle East.
“So as a woman of color, why would you travel all the way to India to talk about women when you have race issues in your country that affect your people, people who look like you, and young black men? If you speak about it here, they’ll hear you more, because you’re local,” Mwangi says bluntly, before apologizing for putting her on the spot.
She stares at him for a moment and blinks, obviously taken aback. “Um…I don’t know,” she says and shrugs. “I guess people in India, the Middle East, and Africa suffer more than women here do.” She then quickly reconsiders, acknowledging that it might be better to gain experience in women’s advocacy in the United States before taking her ambitions abroad. Their brief discussion brought to mind a great bit by The Daily Show’s new correspondent Trevor Noah on the inaccurate perceptions Americans have of African nations versus the reality.
“There’s a clear sense of glorification and faux heroism. When I’m here locally in Durham doing very similar work, people aren’t as excited by it,” one Duke University student says, a participant of an international volunteer program that invited Mwangi to speak during his trip to the United States.
Among the uncomfortable revelations during Mwangi’s speech and roundtable discussion was that it’s likely foreign volunteers in African countries benefit more from the experience than the communities they are trying to help thanks to the resume- and university application-enhancing powers of such a unique, altruistic endevor.
Mwangi and his fellow activists stop short of asking Westerners to leave Africa and disengage from efforts to improve conditions. Instead, they want people to reassess why they want to volunteer specifically in Africa and how they want to make a difference. Mwangi believes that students should spend time volunteering and advocating for change in their own communities before going international.
“There’s nothing wrong with service, and helping others by going abroad. I think it’s a very noble idea. The question is why are you doing it? Why go abroad when you can stop at the local homeless shelter?” Mwangi says, pointing especially to the experiences of black Americans in their own country. “My concern is that while you guys are out trying to save the word, you’re neglecting what’s going on at home. “
Read it here.
What do you think? Should the West start concentrating it’s saviour mentality on itself?
Happy New Year everyone.
I hope you had enjoyed wonderful celebrations to see in what is going to be a VERY exciting year. This year I’m hoping to really ramp up my posting, do more research for meatier pieces, get others to contribute and work on our very exciting Simua campaign to challenge African stereotypes. I’d also really love to hear a lot more from you, so please do comment and get in touch! And if you’d like to write something, I’d love to hear from you!
My year got off to a particularly brilliant start when someone sent me a link to an amazing video of Robtel Neajai Pailey.
Someone needs to give that girl a medal! She’s basically espousing everything I’ve been trying to convey in this blog. I thought I’d share it with you. Let 2015 be the year when the West stops pitying and patronising Africa (and other so called ‘developing’ continents and countries), stops treating it as one homogeneous group and stops pretending that aid is going to ‘save’ a continent that is not treated equally in the international political and economic systems. Enough is enough! Let’s raise our voices loud and clear and start building a world that works for all.
Lots of love, joy and goodwill to you all.
I realised the other day that this week (yesterday in fact), marks 27 years since former president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara, was murdered because of European and African interests in a coup d’état led by French-backed current president Blaise Compaoré. Having spent time in Burkina Faso and spoken to many people who adore him, I really couldn’t let this anniversary pass by without commemorating it in some way. Many of you reading this in the West may not have heard of Sankara, so this is for you.
One of the very first things I ever heard about Sankara when I was in Burkina was that he would often dress himself up in casual clothing and quietly take to the streets to talk to people and play football with children with little recognition or fanfare. He wanted it that way. He wanted to talk to people and know what was really going on, so that he could be a better leader.
Commonly referred to as Africa’s Che Guevara, Sankara is widely considered in the continent to be one of the great leaders of the Twentieth Century. His Pan-Africanism, sweeping social and economic reforms, commitment to women and challenging of the elite (both Burkinabé and international) and the West has labelled him a hero in the eyes of many.
I must hastily add that (in my opinion) Sankara is not without fault and he has been criticised by many for his often undemocratic policies. He was an authoritarian leader accused of human rights violations against his political enemies, he established Committees for the Defence of the Revolution and banned unions and free press. However, he championed Burkina Faso and the whole African continent, stood up to Western hegemony and “undertook one of the most ambitious programmes for social and economic change ever attempted on the continent.” In the words of Sean Jacobs (more below): “Sankara’s short four-year reign – for all its faults… pointed briefly to the potential of different political futures for Africans.” You really should know about him.
There is so much I could say about Sankara, but happily, there are two brilliant articles already written about him that will put it much better than I can.
The first; Sankara: Daring to invent Africa’s future was written in 2008 in the Guardian by Sean Jacobs, who wrote:
Sankara preached economic self-reliance. He shunned World Bank loans and promoted local food and textile production… Women, the poor and the country’s peasantry benefited mostly from the reforms. Sankara outlawed tribute payments and obligatory labour to village chiefs, abolished rural poll taxes, promoted gender equality in a very male-dominated society (including outlawing female circumcision and polygamy), instituted a massive immunisation programme, built railways and kick-started public housing construction. His administration aggressively pushed literacy programmes, tackled river blindness and embarked on an anti-corruption drive in the civil service.
You can read the full (and balanced) article here.
The second article appeared more recently on the Africa is a Country website (they are amazing, check them out).
It is the 27th anniversary of the death of Thomas Sankara, and once again we mark the passing of one of the great leaders of the Twentieth Century. Sankara was a Marxist revolutionary in the last years of the Cold War, a Pan-Africanist when the Pan-African project was at its lowest ebb, a committed feminist long before so-called “global civil society” started to preach about “empowerment” of women, a leader who sought to organize the uplift of a whole society long before elites began to boast about “Africa Rising”.
You can read the full article here and they’ve got some brilliant videos in their feature that are worth watching.
There’s still a lot more research I’d like to do on Sankara, but I’d be really interested to hear about what you know of him, or your thoughts on his leadership. Is he your hero? Can a great leader really be great and undemocratic? How can France and it’s co-conspirators justify his death? Thoughts welcome as always!
p.s I’d really like to know of any good books/websites/resources on Sankara so please do feel free to recommend.