Africa myth #3: Africa needs help from US celebrities
Of the many misconceptions about Africa, a major one appears to be that Africans can't seem to solve their problems without help from American celebrities.
Story by Here and Now. Listen to audio for full report.
In 2005, Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina published a satirical article in Granta, headlined, “How to Write about Africa.”
Always use the word Africa, darkness or safari in your title. Treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty. Tall thin people who are starving. Or hot and steamy, short people who eat primates. Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won a Nobel Peace Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. And always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.
It was satire, but isn’t that all we hear out of Africa -- and is the media to blame? Because the media is also criticized for not drawing attention to, say Somalia, now suffering a drought and civil war.
Scott Baldauf knows the frustration. He’s just completed five years as the Christian Science Monitor’s correspondent in South Africa, and reflects on some of the misconceptions about the continent in an essay headlined "Five Myths About Africa."
One of those myths is that Africa needs help from American celebrities. Baldauf says while the attention celebrities generate for various issues is valuable, Africans don't necessarily appreciate being rescued, over and over again, by white "Tarzans."
"Unfortunately, these celebrities tend to be white," Baldauf explained. "It might help if there were more black celebrities doing this, and if those black celebrities got as much attention as George Clooney, as Matt Damon, as Angelina Jolie, etc."
At the core of this is the perception that Africans can't solve their own problems.
"For Africans, they look at this and say, 'come on, we're much more than that. We're much more complex than that, we have interests and needs beyond what you guys can describe," said Baldauf.
Other myths you can read about on Baldauf's post include: Africa is poor, Africa is violent and Africa is backward.
"Here and Now" is an essential midday news magazine for those who want the latest news and expanded conversation on today's hot-button topics.