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The problem with charity adverts and Africa

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It’s that time of year where your TV becomes flooded with charity adverts, seeking to capitalise on the ‘New Year, new me’ attitude and the little bit of money left over from Christmas shopping. The usual dismal pictures of Africa resurface, with most of these adverts failing to engage viewers and managing to desensitise and perpetuate a stereotypical view of Africa. Whilst watching these adverts it’s easy to pick out a number of things that are problematic.

The first problem is not explaining why certain groups of people are in this predicament. During the late 1800s many European nations started colonising countries in Africa and exploiting their natural, economic and human resources. This as well as the Atlantic slave trade created a system where European countries greatly benefited from the labour of Africa. Colonialism helped to create an environment where people of colour were denied access to land, employment, education and other resources that allow progression. Although it’s impractical to tell the history of a country in a two minute advert, it is worth providing people with a basic understanding of why certain groups of people are in poverty. As well as colonialism, things such as political upheaval and civil war have played a major role in stunting the growth of a country’s economic system.Colonialism

Another problem with these adverts is that they help to paint Africa, as a place that is symbolic for poverty. Sayings such as “there are people starving in Africa” are a direct response to these type of adverts. For people who have no direct link or relationship to Africa, these adverts are their only connection to the continent. There should be more of an emphasis and focus on the positive outcomes that charitable contributions can bring, rather than the stereotypical images we constantly see of Africa. The video below is a perfect example of how charities tend to portray Africa.

A focus on the big picture is also important, many adverts tend to equate your donations of £2 a month to changing someone’s life. This may be the case but this doesn’t really create an infrastructure where the people can build for themselves, instead it supports a relationship of co-dependency. There’s nothing wrong with contributing £2 but we really need a to see a clear path of where the money is going and how it will actually benefit people over short and long periods.

Lastly too many charities have a tendency to use high profile, but totally mismatched spokespeople to promote their campaign. These celebrities merely read of cue-cards without showing any emotion or connection to the cause, instead charities should use people and activist from these communities, to speak about the positive developments that the charity has done. An example of this type of work is the non profit organisation MamaHope. By using people in the community and breaking lazy stereotypes this makes for an overall better and more authentic impression.

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