Africans tell Bono:”Stop Sending Aid”

As I have been blogging a lot about Africa over the past few weeks, I am trying to dig behind the headlines about what is going on in Africa beyond Bono, Angelina Jolie, & Madonna. Beyond AIDS, famine, and genocide. In essence, what are Africans doing to improve the conditions in Africa for African people?

I came across this story from The American—a new magazine that brands itself “The new business magazine for people who think.” The story called “Africans tell Bono: ‘For God’s Sake, Please Stop'” details a meeting held in Tanzania recently where essentially, Africans told Bono to his face, to stop. Not only did they tell Bono to stop, but several people declared that Africa would only be saved by the ingenuity of Africans, and that they wished people would actually stop with sending aid.

The story, written by Jennifer Brea, who blogs at Africabeat, details some of the ingenious ways people are solving problems in Africa. Brea writes in The American:

Eleni Gabre-Madhin, a World Bank economist, returned to her native Ethiopia to start a commodities exchange to prevent future famines.

Daniel Annerose invented software in Senegal that allows farmers to track market prices via SMS text messaging.

Alieu Conteh built the first cellular network in the Congo.

Florence Seriki, Nigeria’s first computer manufacturing company.

Then there’s William Kamkwamba, the undisputed showstopper, a teenager from rural Malawi who, at age fourteen, built a windmill from plastic scrap and an old bicycle frame that generates enough electricity to light his family’s house.

I encourage you to READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE! It will hopefully give people a different of what is happening in Africa, and what is possible for the continent.

Brea is also writing a book on China’ trade relationship to Africa.

9 thoughts on “Africans tell Bono:”Stop Sending Aid”

  1. Very interesting! I have never been a fan of just throwing money at a problem, because there is always going to be a problem. To help it out you have to make sure that the problem doesn’t happen again.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Uh-oh! I think you have sorely mis-interpreted this article and my reason for posting it.

    I don’t think Africans at the conference were saying that they don’t need resources. They’re saying they need the kind of resources to encourage the innovations that are already happening within the continent–not the kind that simply provide grains of rice during famine, rather than creating sustainable food and farming infrastructure.

    For instance, I heard a South Asian (American) freelance television reporter who was in Niger at the same time Anderson Cooper was there during their famine last year. She said that the problem was not weather that ruined crops. There was plenty of food in marketplaces, but the prices (set by World Bank and IMF programs) were so high people could not afford it. So “aid” in this sense has actually caused or helped t exacerbate the problem, not solve it.

    When people talk about “throwing money at the problem”–that is such a racist and disingenuous notion. When rich white people send their kids to prep schools, they’re throwing money at the problem! It only becomes “throwing money” when its people of color, usually poor and usually blacks, who people have no interest in assisting.

    Africans do need resources but the notion of “aid” needs to be re-examined.

    There is not “always going to be a problem.” To say so, in the way that you mean it, is to suggest that poverty is somehow a natural state of being, rather than a situation imposed on certain groups of people by political, social and economic structures.

  3. Well, Mr. Farrow, in response to your response to Apolitico, I only hope people like Ms. Jolie and Bono don’t misinterpret comments from people like Jennifer Brea as hostile because too few even care, never mind differentiate, what is and what is not helpful aid to Africa. Dialogue is helpful to those with an open heart. Lecturing a helping hand is not.

  4. When I penned that comment, I wrote it with the frustration of people blindly giving money for the sake of giving money, because they either want to say that they gave money or they just want to feel good about themselves; not because they genuinely want to help.

    My comment actually agrees with you, I believe that if one just gives money to a cause the problem (poverty in this case) will continue because we have to target the aid to help Africans solve the problems that plague the country.

    I feel as though this famous Chinese Proverb is particularly poignant, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” To truly help those around us we need to stop giving them fish we need buy them rods, nets, and boats; so they can sustain themselves. If we really cared, we would be doing that.

    I noticed throughout your comment, you took parts of my comments and put a spin on them as if they were coming out of the mouth of the stereotypical “mullet donning, white southerner.” I am far from that my friend, when you speak of people of color and of the poor; you are preaching the story of my life. I was once homeless and in need of aid my own aid; and to go through that as a young African-American was not an easy thing for me. So do not try to pigeonhole someone when you do not know them or their background.

  5. I am a white American conservative who has never been to Africa. I do not proclaim to have any knowledge about Africa. However, people are people everywhere, and nobody likes to be talked to like they are 3 year olds. If I was African, I would find people constantly portraying my entire continent as a mess as a complete insult.

    The people who live in Africa know their continent best, and they do not need to be preached to by Hollywood celebrities. Africa does not need celebrity photo opportunities. It needs foreign investment and development, the same as any nation including America needs.

    Anyway, I am contacting political bloggers around the country, and I apologize in advance if my request is redundant.

    I would like it very much if you would go to and vote for me for best political blog and best overall blog as well, IF AND ONLY IF you feel my blog is of a high quality. I really think I have a legitimate shot at winning. If you are open to spreading the word, that would be cool as well.

    Thank you.

    eric aka

  6. “Lecturing a helping hand is not”


    One of the problems arising from the paternalism of the white mans burden and the influence appeals to white guilt have on white/ black and global north /global south relations is the notion that just because a person wishes to “do something” that they are helping.

    What is helpful must be determined by the people recieving the aid. Almost without fail what the people say is most helpful is redistributive measures coupled with building sustainiable institutions.

    The underlying problem of course is that Africa is used as a vehicle for people like Bono to be better humans. These helpers have no intention of giving up their right to determine what is helpful or not because their reward psychologically is exactly that high they get from helping “the lessers.”

    It serves to reinforce ther notion of themselves as “good” humans, Christians, or activists…while sustaining and maintaining a dependant client.

    Until this cycle is broken and the power to determine what is necessary is placed into the hands of the human beings in poverty (who, as Kenyon said, have been put there by the theft of their money and natural recources by centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism) we will continue to see the same patterns.

    I’ll take ten dollars worth of rescources from your nation or community through institutional and political means backed by military force…

    then I’ll give you back one dollar to assuage my guilt and show that Im not as bad as the guys (normally called corporations ) that do the taking.

    The structural adjustment programs of the IMF are a global manifestation of the same prejudices which created the Indian Ring and what Malcolm called the “Liberal Power Structure” here in the US.

    Deep down…

    They would ask what someone in Norway, or France thought they needed.

    They dont ask in Africa because they dont think they have they wherewithal to make those determinations.

    The educated, privileged and yes..the white are to determine whats “best” for them. Because if they knew they wouldnt be in the situation they are in.

    Of course no one comes out and SAYS this…

    Which of course neglects the role of the colonizing nations in creating the poverty that the few concious and committed people try so valiantly to combat.

    Poverty in Africa has a 500 year history.

  7. Pingback: American Apparel Goes Native. « Kenyon Farrow

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s