It has been the big thing for fading celebrities who have an album, film or book to promote, they know it will make them look cool and right on global champions of politically correct thinking and it is so easy and costs very little. They just get a charity or television company to send them to Africa as a Goodwill Ambassador, have their press agents inform the media and then, having made sure plenty of paparazzi are watching they grab the nearest African and hug them.
Hugging an African and talking about poverty, disease, hunger and how your new album / movie / book was inspired by the plight of so many Africans guarantees front page and headline stories all around the world. All the usual suspects are doing it, Bono, Madonna, Sting, Brangelina, Kylie Minogue, Gerri Halliwell, Joanna Lumley, Robbie Williams, Annie Lennox, Billy Conolly and the list goes on. It will not be long until you next see one of them grinning desperately for the cameras of the global media as they hug a bewildered and embarrassed African.
The western guilt trip demands celebrities make these gestures of course, but are they universally welcomed in Africa?
It is bad enough the west exploited the continent and its resources and people during the colonial era without western governments and charities pouring in financial aid while politicians and pop stars pour in and offer advice to Africans on how to run their nations and lives and less well known western guilt tourists just turn up and start hugging unsuspecting Africans oblivious of the fact that in many African societies hugging strangers is a total no-no. Not that telling the average fading celeb. or determined tourist something is not acceptable will ever stop them. They are being paid or have paid good money to hug Africans and they are damn well gonna, OK? There is nothing short of a panga through the skull that will stop them.
Bono of course knows beyond doubt that being patronised by him is the greatest blessing life can bestow on a person from the third world and if he just keeps on patronising bewildered third would peasants they will come to understand how fortunate they are. It is rumoured that Madonna has bought several small African countries and passed laws compelling inhabitants to be available for hugs whenever she wants a photo-op. What is certainly true is that Madge has threatened African governments that she will play gigs there if they try to stop her hugging the locals.
Hugging Africans is not the only problem westerners cause it seems. According to a new book, Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo, western aid and the scientific advice that is a condition of getting the money are counter productive. Dambisa, a Nigerian polymath whose qualifications include BSc (chemistry), M.A. PhD (economics) , MBA and being a premier league hottie claims aid and the conditions attached have stifled development and progress throughout much of Africa. If you are not convinced yet to buy the book (and for guys it is worth the price just for the picture of Dambisa on the dust jacket) read the article Everyone Knows It Doesnt Work and learn more of Ms. Moyos ideas for solving Africas problems.
Perhaps if we started listening to Africans about how Africas problems could be solved rather than European politicians seeking votes and academics seeking grants and American Preacher Politicians whose skewed view of African history is more fantastical than Lord Of The Rings we might start seeing social and economic progress in that continent.
Everyone Knows It Doesnt Work A link to Dambasi’s interview with the G2 magazine.
Dead Aid: ‘Aid has not been able to increase growth and reduce poverty’ An analysis of the effects of Aid in this article.
Dead Aid Dambisa Moyo (Penguin Books) Learn more about Dead Aid or buy the book.