Which image of Africa would you rather see: skeletal, abandoned child, or healthy-looking working family?
Most people would say the latter; certainly most of those in the aid sector – some of whom were discussing this at the recent PICS festival – now consider the starving child images not only unethical, but also unhelpful. They’re “not effective”, is the general view.
But effective for what? Fundraising appeals today still deploy the same imagery, and the same language, as they did in the 1980s, when “poverty porn” made it to the mainstream with the Ethiopian famine hitting our headlines. That’s not only an indication that we’re seeing the same problems as we did three decades ago; it means we’re also stubbornly looking at them in the same way.
There’s an unusual fundraising idea coming from a German NGO. Check out “Afrika Kicker”:
I love the idea, and the originality of it – not to mention how they are combining online promotion tools with (hurrah!) physical interaction and donation-gathering. I like that they’re making it less about donating and more about playing. But of course… how effective is it really? Is it all worth it, for the limited number of 2-euro coins you can actually get from this? Or is it, more than anything else, something that just looks cool, and – as one campaigning colleague suggested, “a playground for the agency who tends to win creativity awards”? Continue reading “Kicking ass”→
Maybe I’m too early. There are flatscreen TVs, fashionably ripped jeans and perfume brands I’ve never heard of – but not much selling going on. Security guards lean over the stairwell. Traders count their stock. The four-storey Tianxiu building, in central Guangzhou in southern China, comes alive later perhaps.
I won’t know for sure, though, not today. It’s three in the afternoon, and I have just a few hours in the city. I’ve made a beeline for Tianxiu: Guangzhou is home to the largest African community in the country, and this is the heart of it all.
Phew – first (published) video entirely made by me – in other words, my first credit as “self-shooting producer/director and editor”, not to mention researcher, translator, etc.
(Start playing, and then click on the subtitles icon, bottom right of the window, if they don’t automatically appear.)
Sifting through the footage, and figuring out how to pull a coherent thread from five different sets of interviews, most in Kiswahili, wasn’t so much fun. Planning and filming was wonderful, though. Kigoma, on the western edge of Tanzania, is far enough (two days’ drive) from Dar es Salaam to have its own, somewhat gentler character than that chaotic city; it’s tiny too, in comparison. But it’s a place of significance – an international crossroads; a landing place for refugees from Tanzania’s troubled neighbours to the west (Burundi and DRC); the endpoint of the country’s first rattling railway line – and the spot where, supposedly, Stanley found Livingstone. Continue reading “From dusty shores to a screen near you”→
The writer himself, though, doesn’t seem to feature much in the lecture series other than as a thread to tie together the rather grandly-named “top global thinkers” on development.
The optimism of today’s speaker, Lord Malloch Brown, on the impact of aid surprised me somewhat. Not surprising in itself – this is an ex-UN and former UK government minister for Africa, after all – but I must have got so used to hearing the same gloominess about Tanzania’s future (or been in that frame of mind myself) while I was there that it was odd to hear someone talk now of development over the past 50 years as “the world’s best-kept secret”. Maybe you need a bit of distance from the day-to-day struggles to be able to see the bigger picture. Because it’s true, in many ways: eradication of disease, access to education, numbers of people rising from extreme poverty – all have impressive figures to quote.