I blogged about the original article back in 2006, and Binyavanga Wanaina has done a "quick response" that's a 25 minute lecture.

It's long, but it's worth listening to. Be prepared to have your preconceptions about Africa turned on their head. We get trapped into a certain method of thinking about what to do about the problems that occur in other countries, and we never really get to question our thinking, because of the mediated images we see.

On the news we see unrest, violence, and starvation, and god help you if you watch daytime TV, and those atrocious ads for self-serving Christian Organizations like "Save the Children". All we seem to think is "how can I help? What can I do?" Maybe, just maybe, we should think "How did this happen? What needs to happen to stop atrocities like this in the first place?"

An entire infrastructure of NGOs has arisen to answer the first questions. You give them money, they go there and help people. This has been the answer to the first question for fifty years, and people are slowly coming to the realization that it doesn't work.

Jeffrey Sachs, and Bono, and other Celebs have come to the conclusion that it's not working because we haven't given enough. Their conclusion is that Africa's governance is poor, because Africans are poor. He wants to throw enough money at Africa so that everyone gets a dollar a day. This is throwing money at a problem until it goes away.

This might work, but if you actually listen to africans, this is not what they're asking for. It's much more likely that it's not working because it's the wrong approach. It's not working because it's answering the wrong questions. It's answering the easy questions, and the real answers are hard.

I don't know what the right approach is, but we can only come to the right questions by listening to Africans, not by coming at it with our own ill-conceived notions and prejudices, and applying the same solutions that haven't worked for the past 50 years, except more

Part 2 is here and part 3 is here


Powered by Disqus


27 December 2008