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Spoof music video exposes the paternalistic views Americans have of Africa

November 23, 2012

Many of us remember that awful we are the world music video from the 80s, along with all the tear-jerking images of suffering African people.

Much of that campaign and most “aid” projects are just another manifestation of the White Savior Complex. It is easy for us to engage in well-intentioned charity, since it allows us to ignore the root causes of injustice and suffering.

This paternalistic view of the world, and particularly of Africa, has not been overlooked by people who are often the objects of American paternalism. A new project designed to challenge Western paternalism, Africa for Norway, is an excellent resource that uses satire and sound analysis.

Here is what they have to say:

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?

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.

The truth is that there are many positive developments in African countries, and we want these to become known. We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa’s development. If we want to address the problems the world is facing we need to do it based on knowledge and respect.


  • Fundraising should not be based on exploiting stereotypes.
 Most of us just get tired if all we see is sad pictures of what is happening in the world, instead of real changes.
  • We want better information about what is going on in the world, in schools, in TV and media.
 We want to see more nuances. We want to know about positive developments in Africa and developing countries, not only about crises, poverty and AIDS. We need more attention on how western countries have a negative impact on developing countries.
  • Media: Show respect.
 Media should become more ethical in their reporting. Would you print a photo of a starving white baby without permission? The same rules must apply when journalists are covering the rest of the world as it does when they are in their home country.
  • Aid must be based on real needs, not “good” intentions.
 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.
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