Sure, hunger is bad. But frostbite kills too. Africa for Norway aims to help freezing Norwegians survive the winter, one radiator at a time.
Is this for real? In short, no. But this mock campaign does have a purpose. It wants us to broaden our perspective on aid and international development.
The Norwegian Students’ and Academics' International Assistance Fund along with a group of South African students poke fun at stereotypes with their now-viral video: Radi-Aid, Africa for Norway. Spoofing 1985's celebrity-filled USA for Africa Ethiopia famine campaign, they deliver satire with a real message:
What are the first things that come to mind when you think about Africa? For many, it’s hunger, conflict, corruption and disease. Thanks in part to organizations that know images of fly-covered children are great at garnering donations, it isn't surprising that we’re often stuck with a misconception that this is all Africa has to offer. But this is precisely what Africa for Norway is trying to dispel.
While acknowledging that the fast-improving continent still has deep problems, Africa for Norway has four main goals for their Radi-Aid campaign:
- Fundraising should not be based on exploiting stereotypes.
- Schools and media need better information about what's going on in the world.
- The media should become more ethical in their reporting of humanitarian disasters and chronic poverty.
- Aid must be based on real needs, not “good” intentions.
Many Africans today, especially youth, are unable to relate to the images of starving babies and misery that Western audiences have become accustomed to over the past several decades. Much like Norwegians are more than a snow-bound freezing population, desperately in need of our generosity to survive the winter.
Moving beyond imagery, these stereotypes also impress the need to tackle development differently. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized this during her speech at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative. Clinton mentions long-term planning and shifting monetary aid to investment and partnerships as the key to improving international development practices. Tapping into local capacity by promoting locally-led and funded programs are at the core of this evolving framework.
It’s also up to us to educate ourselves about the rest of the world and demand that the media is more equitable in their global coverage. By focusing on development successes and lessons learned, instead of poverty and need, we can begin to dismantle patriarchal stereotypes and create lasting pathways to more equitable prosperity. Or you could ship Norway your radiator.