Why the Whole 'Poor Africa' Thing Has to Stop

Kony 2012 (YouTube)
Kony 2012 (YouTube)

In a blog entry at xoJane, Nigerian poet-writer Bassey Ikpi checks in on the debate surrounding the "Stop Kony" campaign and white saviors. She says that while such campaigns are laudable, they merely further stereotypes that Africa is constantly in need of saving. Her personal stories highlight the pain of some these misguided perceptions.

… All this reminds me of a story my father once told about an incident in our village of Ugep. When he was a little boy, a group of men from England had come bearing cameras. They were eager to capture the every day comings and goings of our small village.

In late August, we celebrate an event known as The New Yam Festival. It's like a carnival in other parts of the world. Everyone in the village assumed that the English men were there to take photographs of this rich and beautiful aspect of our culture. But they weren't there for that at all. They were there to push their own agenda.


When they saw anyone who fit their idea of what Africa was, that's when their cameras switched on. They ignored the pageantry of the festival and zoomed in on a few young kids who were naked or dirty. These are the same images that go on to be used to represent all of Africa. Each village, each language, each country, each region gets clumped into this congealed pot of "poor Africa."

That's what Stop Kony is doing — perpetuating the notion that Africa is a place soft enough to land after a guilt trip. Furthering the myth that Africans are constantly in need of saving only serves to dehumanize its people. Nearly three decades after "We Are the World," I'm still fighting misconceptions about the continent. 

Read Bassey Ikpi's entire blog entry at xoJane.

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