05 February 2013

Reflecting on Absurd Reactions to Oxfam's New Campaign

The well-intended but perhaps off-target campaign by Oxfam to spread good news about Africa now has drawn a critical look from the LA Times.

But the real action is in the comments section. The early responses repeat the somewhat tired – and offensive – old refrain that aid is wasted money because Africans are incapable and bound to mess things up. These comments show we still need a lot more discussion about how people view the African continent and its residents.

Yes, that’s offensive.

But why does such ignorance and apathy persist?

Maybe it’s because conversations about poverty alleviation campaigns have been framed in a way that creates misunderstanding, stereotypes and hopelessness. Critics of these depictions are concerned that they perpetuate the idea that Africa is in deep trouble and needs the help of the West if it is to just barely survive. The people commenting appear to believe the continent is in bad shape because of its own doing and that it Africans are inherently incapable of making it better.