These attempts to help Africa are really offensive



Illustration by Kyle Kim/GlobalPost, photographs by

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NAIROBI, Kenya — Africa needs your help. So do anything — and we mean anything at all — because anything, from selling whistles to singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, helps. As one carefully written Hollywood character puts it, “They can do with all the help they can get.”

This is bollocks, of course.

But it seems that this obvious truth is not obvious enough to some Western well-wishers, do-gooders and egoists who continue to trade in wrongheaded, patronizing, arrogant, stereotypical, ill-considered and downright idiotic representations of a very large and diverse continent.

There are many more out there so feel free to tweet us your personal favorites. In the meantime, here’s GlobalPost’s list of some of the absolute worst offenders:

1. 50 Cent saves Somalia (2011)

Buy an energy drink, end famine. 


2. Rick Ross shoots a music video in Nigeria (2012)

This music video, in which Rick Ross and friends parade around a Nigerian slum wearing fully-encrusted diamonds and driving a luxury car, is more proof that stereotyping Africa and its people is not the sole preserve of stupid white people: stupid black people do it too.


3. Band Aid wonders if they know it's Christmas at all (1984)

Bob Geldof’s classic speaks for itself, so we’ll let it: “Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears ... And the Christmas bells that chime there are the clanging chimes of doom … Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow …" and so on.


4. Two decades later and Band Aid 20 asks the same stupid question (2004)

In 1984, ignorance of Africa was common, so we can understand the original Band Aid getting it all so horribly wrong. By 2004, there was no excuse. Yet this happened. Bono, it's worth mentioning, is featured in both versions.


5. Christina Aguilera goes to Rwanda (2013)

People magazine wrote up the singer’s visit to “war-torn Rwanda” where, fortunately, the children still dance.


6. Hollywood does the White Messiah Complex, with guns (2011)

The Machine Gun Preacher film includes this telling exchange between a reformed drug-dealer, gun loving, Christian-convert biker and his incredulous family:

“I was thinking maybe I can go over there.”
“Reckon they can do with all the help they can get.”


7. Invisible Children – Kony 2012

A phenomenon that needs no introduction.


8.  Expedition Kony (2013)

Journalist-cum-adventurer Robert Young Pelton plans to track down Joseph Kony, wherever he may be, but he needs your money to do it.


9. Mindy Budgor: the Maasai ‘Warrior Princess’ (2013)

Chris Jackson/Getty Images.

Privileged white girl goes on holiday in Kenya, becomes storied tribal warrior in a matter of weeks. 


10. Italian men’s magazine L’Uomo Vogue’s "Africa" issue (2012)

Johannes Eisele/ AFP Getty Images.

Featuring that world famous African, UN chief Ban Ki-moon, on the cover.


11. Oxfam’s “Let’s make Africa famous for … not hunger” campaign (2013)

net_efekt/ Flickr Commons.

Wrongheaded and somewhat hypocritical campaign from an aid agency that has for years traded on images of suffering but now says, "Don’t look at the misery, look at the lovely landscapes!"


Turning the tables

Needless to say, all of these examples are ripe for satire. Thankfully there’s been some excellent work on the subject, notably from Norwegian group Radi-Aid.

Africa for Norway (2012)

"People don’t ignore starving people, so why should we ignore cold people? Frostbite kills too.”

Let’s Save Africa (2013)

More from the same group. "For only $9 you can make a difference in these poor little angels lives. So please reach into your hearts, dig into your pockets and together we can save Africa!" 

Rusty Radiator Awards (2013)

Nominations for the inaugural satirical awards include this gem, which argues that these kids are "too poor for words."

For more on this subject read Teju Cole’s sharp 2012 article, "The White-Savior Industrial Complex," or browse the excellent and acerbic website Africa is a Country.

Tristan McConnell is GlobalPost's Senior Correspondent in Nairobi. Follow him on Twitter.