In my experience, it is not uncommon as an African to hear comments about Africa. Most of them are negative, and occasionally misinformed, but all of them are said with such confidence, as though anyone with a functioning mouth is a workbook of knowledge on the state of Africa. But as an African I would like to comprehend what it is people get from making these announcements? Are you searching for a sense of heroism or a pat on the back for demonstrating that you have ‘working feelings’? “Oh there is so much poverty”- congratulations you have eyes. “Oh the starving children in the slums make me so sad”- well done, your heart isn’t made of stone.
What do you accomplish by saying things about us that you pretend don’t exist in your own countries? Have we begged you for pity and opinions, or does this come free of charge? Your dollar-a-day campaigns; your endless supply of grains because children will not suffer from kwashiorkor if they can swim in an undying stream of millet and maize meal; your “quick, we have to save the Africans from themselves“ attitude? You initiate “Hunt-Kony-Down” movements and show pictures at dinner parties of that poor African girl you sponsor, through that multinational NGO, with $25 a month who, “bless her, sends a thank-you note in terrible handwriting whenever she can get her hands on some paper and a stamp in the village”. You take pictures and record stories to share among your social circles, as though we are animals of a different species, with no voices of our own. So while Museveni is passing heinous laws, and other African leaders and criminals are committing unfathomable atrocities, your attention is on what you think is the REAL problem. Why should we make a puppet our priority, when he’s a dispensable pawn on the chessboard of a greater monopoly? Honestly, if I am starving, I’m not focused on the future; I’m living for the present. So ask me to take a picture and give me some food in return, and HEY PRESTO- starving African kid acquired for FB #tbt picture upon your return home. Hunger is a deplorable demon- don’t take advantage of how easily manipulated someone is in that state. Jacob and Esau people, it’s a heck of a story. You’re not a hero, you’re today’s meal ticket.
Perhaps it’s that you’re trying to “save” us by encouraging perpetual dependence on you. But this is not the 16th century- we’re not trying to encourage one-hut missionary schools in a field of dust somewhere in the middle of the Kalahari, where people are learning to read and write, so they can achieve basic literacy for blue collar work- we’re fighting for REAL development that gives EVERYONE a chance to dream of a dignified future. Why must we sell our children a dream, when we know that your ostensibly “helpful” handouts are not sustainable? You say poverty and Africa like one would Australia and beaches. But Africa has beaches, flamingos and sunshine; Australians are just very good at hiding their poverty- so why must we assume the SOLE role of poster child for destitution? You say Africa and aid like New York and dreams. But you don’t do any research as to what this money is used for or whether it is actually beneficial, but the fact that it’s aid MUST mean it’s good. You don’t think we dream? You don’t think there are some people in New York in need too? And yet you will also say Seychelles or Mauritius and associate them with honeymooning and luxury, like they are two magical lands where Dora the Explorer and Boots play. DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE FUCKING SEYCHELLES ARE?
When we don’t put coins in a beggar’s box on the street, it isn’t because we have hardened hearts and have rejected to acknowledge the state of our nations. In many cases it’s because we realise that feeding a man today, doesn’t guarantee he will eat tomorrow. Imagine spending your life begging and every day you live is another day you MUST beg to eat- is this life or is this cruel impending death? There are Africans who work diligently IN AFRICA, who assess the situation, identify the cracks in the system; corrosion of the chains, and their blood sweat and tears go into sustainable development; strengthening of institutions; improvements in the legal system; improvement in healthcare; microfinancing for lower level income earners; investment in quality education; fighting corruption; trying to educate the population on failing leadership; cutting ties with greed; addressing lack of proper security; funding entrepreneurship; exploiting freedoms under the constitutions; investigating how mineral wealth can subsidise poorer communities, etc. If we don’t address the problems that perpetuate poverty, we give it a platform to fester. Would you weed a garden by snipping off the top, or do you pluck from the root? People are WORKING, really WORKING to create something that the generations that follow can inherit. We’re not sitting around waiting for a hero- but we cannot fix many LIFETIMES of errors in a day. So forgive us if we don’t worship the ground you walk on because your band-aid solutions have not as of yet proved SUSTAINABLE in the long run. I know at the end of the day, many people will take offence to what I have said, because your intentions may be pure, but your approach sits unevenly. So please, I IMPLORE you, for the sake of the poverty stricken Africans you ‘weep’ for, if you take nothing else from this, at the very LEAST acknowledge that your pity is not a taxable income.