26 June 2012
We have all seen the awful pictures of the starving African child born into a continent that is not capable of providing for its people and cannot manage to get out of poverty. However, is this image accurate and how much of it is propagated by the West?
Garron Hansen’s book “A Land of A Thousand Hills” says the images we see in the West are not very representative of what goes on day-to-day. The real Africa is quite different. And the problem with all this Western stereotyping is that it manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of some current victories, fuelling support for patronising Western policies designed to rescue the allegedly helpless African people while often discouraging those policies that might actually help. Hansen continues, “What percentage of African population would you say dies in war every year? What share of male children, age 10-17, are child soldiers? How many Africans are afflicted by famine or died of AIDS last year of are living as refugees? In each case, the answer is one-half of 1% of the population or less. That of course doesn’t lessen the tragedy, of course, of those who are such victims, and maybe there are things the West can do to help them.” The reason it is important that we don’t create a false image of Africa is that impedes them from recognising their strengths and it blinds us to the most effective ways of lending our knowledge. Let’s not forget that this is their continent and change has to be propelled by them.
For instance in Rwanda they have amazing community systems, which allows them to disseminate information from the most upper levels in government down to the most remote citizen and back up. They have learned to cope with severe trauma and build themselves up in an exceptionally small amount of time. Kenya is giving birth to amazing innovation and creative entrepreneurs. Nigeria is building a financial super power. The list of achievements go on and on. So why the interest in keeping the hidden? It feeds the ego of huge NGO’s who continue to get oodles of dollars thrown at them to help ‘ the suffering African’. There is a better a way to help, it starts by observing their needs and asking them how they would like to be helped.