Could someone please tell Bob Geldof that raising money for Africa is so 1980s?
The Irish musician, who was the brainchild behind Band Aid that put together the We are the World single to raise money for starving Ethiopians 30 years ago, has brought together a bunch of aging musicians to record a new song for Ebola victims in West Africa.
Many people, not least Africans, are disgusted. They see Geldof’s latest fund-raising campaign as yet another attempt by white people to portray Africans as helpless and in constant need of aid, while trying to gain “sainthood” for themselves.
Maybe no one has told Geldof that countries such as Nigeria have successfully contained Ebola all by themselves, thank you very much, and that the reason Sierra Leone and Liberia are suffering disproportionately from the disease is because their health care systems were broken by years of civil war. Money raised through a song will not fix these systems overnight.
Besides, he should know by now that aid to Africa has had a negative impact on the continent and in several cases has contributed to exacerbating poverty, conflict, and underdevelopment. (I would recommend that he read up on this topic.
Good primers include Missionaries, Mercenaries and Misfits edited by yours truly, and Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid.) A more effective strategy to combat the disease is the one employed by Cuba, which sent doctors to the affected areas.
The response to Ebola requires international cooperation and national prevention strategies, not aid.
It is bad enough that Geldof actually believes that throwing money at Africans will contain Ebola, but what is really irritating about his new campaign is the sheer ignorance and insensitivity of the song’s lyrics. The title itself — Do they know it’s Christmas? — belies an ignorance that borders on racism and paternalism. Surely Geldof knows that 60 per cent of Africans are Christians?
Aaron Bady, the editor of the New Inquiry, says that the most disturbing thing about the song is its simple-mindedness and the way it divides the world neatly into two — them (poor, starving, diseased Africans) and us (rich, albeit generous, white people). “Even Jesus was more realistic about the persistence of poverty; the idea that a few songs can solve world hunger expresses a greater messianism than even the Messiah’s”, he wrote.
African musicians, such as Fuse ODG, refused to be part of the song because they worried that the music would reinforce negative perceptions of Africa. Apparently, none of these criticisms have discouraged sales of the song, which had crossed the 300,000 mark by the beginning of December.
Meanwhile, neither Geldof nor the other musicians have dipped into their own pockets to support this cause. Nor have they thought of producing a song to raise money for the many problems afflicting their own countries, such as drug addiction, unemployment, and racism.
MARINE LIFE IN DANGER
When the Kenya Wildlife Service allowed the Billionaire’s Club, owned by Italian millionaire Flavio Briatore, to build a wall around the club, which is adjacent to the KWS-managed Marine Park in Malindi, residents feared that this would negatively impact marine life at the park. Unfortunately, their fears have been realised. Not only has the beach in front of the club been eroded, but the turtles that used to lay and hatch their eggs on the beach have disappeared.
The wall has disrupted the natural flow of the tide. High tides hitting the wall have uprooted the many palm trees that used to line the beach and disturbed the habitat of marine life there. There are now concerns that the underwater Marine Park may also be affected.
According to a residents’ association, the National Environmental Management Authority was consulted and gave the go-ahead to the building of the wall. Now the association is fighting to get the wall pulled down.
How is it that a foreign investor was allowed to destroy a natural heritage site and why were there no conditionalities on environmental preservation when KWS leased out part of its land to the Italian millionaire? How can we allow foreigners to desecrate and destroy our natural environment, especially precious protected firstname.lastname@example.org