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Stop Trying to “Save” Africa

By Maria Nardell on July 17, 2007No Comment

Everywhere in philanthropy these days, Africa seems to be the cause of the moment.  Whether it be eradicating AIDS or fighting hunger, providing clean water or assisting in emergency relief, donors from Gates and Buffet to Angelina Jolie and American Idol have found projects to support on the continent.

With so much money and attention focused on Africa, it would seem that only good could come of it…right?  In an interesting editorial in Sunday’s Washington Post, Uzodinma Iweala (author of Beasts of No Nations) draws attention to some of the risks involved in efforts to “save” Africa.  However well-intentioned, such campaigns can “promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death” or be used to affirm the cultural superiority of the donors while overlooking the contributions of Africans themselves.  Iweala challenges readers to see Africa not as a place that needs saving but as one where, through fair partnerships with the West, Africans are “capable of unprecedented growth.”

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