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November 27, 2012

Creatively Battling African Stereotypes - Radi-Aid

I love it when people come up with some creative way to make their point.

What's your main image of Africa? If you're like a lot of people who don't really think about it much, you probably think of starving children living in very poor communities with grass huts and bad water.

Looks pretty civilized to me! Nice mix of traditional and new
And while there are certainly areas in Africa that still need help, many of which have a major problem with corruption that hinders getting the aid that's needed, there are a lot of "civilized" areas in Africa too. Much like the American stereotype of Canadians living in igloos, believe it or not things like cell phones and the Internet do actually exist there too!

So when a stereotype get mocked (even a supposedly beneficial one like this), I have to applaud.

According to Orange News, there's a new viral video going out online that has Africans donating radiators to help Norwegians fight the cold weather.

The video for Radi-Aid (which is a parody of the 1985 song We Are the World) "was the idea of a Norwegian group aiming to challenge stereotypes about Africa."

In the video, South African rapper Breezy Vee, "urges Africans to donate their old radiators to help Norwegians survive the winter." Because, you know, frostbite can kill and how many Norwegians will freeze to death?

I love this from the Radi-Aid web site:
"Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway”-video, and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?"
They're probably think it was above the Arctic Circle, but why should westerners be alone in having weird geographic knowledge?

The "About Radi-Aid" section of the site goes on to more serious topics, though, and it's something I can respect.
"If we say Africa, what do you think about? Hunger, poverty, crime or AIDS? No wonder, because in fundraising campaigns and media that’s mainly what you hear about.

The pictures we usually see in fundraisers are of poor African children. Hunger and poverty is ugly, and it calls for action. But while these images can engage people in the short term, we are concerned that many people simply give up because it seems like nothing is getting better. Africa should not just be something that people either give to, or give up on."
Kudos to this organization for coming up with a fun way to point out that nobody should have to suffer under stereotypes. True aid and reform can't come to Africans who need it if the world has given up on it because of these stereotypes.

Even better is this, also from the same page:
"Aid is just one part of a bigger picture; we must have cooperation and investments, and change other structures that hold back development in poorer countries. Aid is not the only answer."
Check out Travel News Namibia  for this success story
Too many people forget that, I think. Aid is a band-aid if the structural problems aren't addressed. Investment in the countries, organizations that go over there to help them learn how to help themselves, things like that are what will make the continent prosper.

There has been much success there and we just don't see it when we are bombarded with images of starving children. How about some stories about the successes to show us that we are making a difference.

Don't ignore the problems. But don't focus on them at the expense of everything else, either.

Neither method will help in the long run.

Here's the hilarious video:


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