Africa image harming aid effort, says charity Oxfam

Children in Africa Oxfam said stereotypes of Africa needed to be discarded

Related Stories

A negative image of Africa in the UK is harming efforts to raise food aid in the continent, charity Oxfam has said.

It found that three out of four people had become desensitised to images showing hunger, drought and disease.

Three-quarters thought it was possible to end hunger in Africa, but just one in five believed they could play an active role in achieving it.

Of the more than 2,000 people surveyed, almost half suggested hunger as the biggest problem facing Africa.

Respondents to the survey said over-exposure to negative media and advertising portrayals of Africa and developing countries in other parts of the world was "depressing, manipulative and hopeless".

'Diversity and complexity'

Oxfam chief executive Dame Barbara Stocking said: "Oxfam has led the way in drawing attention to the plight of Africa's most vulnerable people and we aren't trying to gloss over the problems that still beset so many of them, particularly levels of malnutrition that remain stubbornly high.

"But we've come a long way since the 1980s and Band Aid's Do They Know it's Christmas? We need to shrug off the old stereotypes and celebrate the continent's diversity and complexity, which is what we are attempting with this campaign.

Start Quote

We want to make sure people have a really better balanced picture of what's happening in Africa”

End Quote Dame Barbara Stocking Oxfam chief executive

"The relentless focus on ongoing problems at the expense of a more nuanced portrait of the continent, is obscuring the progress that is being made towards a more secure and prosperous future.

"If we want people to help fight hunger we have to give them grounds for hope by showing the potential of countries across Africa - it's a natural instinct to turn away from suffering when you feel you can do nothing to alleviate it."

And when speaking to the BBC, Dame Stocking said a negative image of Africa was "not the truth" about that continent.

"Of course, there are floods, droughts, and there is conflict, but that is not in every country at all. And there are quite a number of countries now in Africa that are really doing very well.

"We want to make sure people have a really better balanced picture of what's happening in Africa. Of course we have to show what the reality is in the situations in those countries.

"But we also need to show the other places where things are actually changing, where things are different."

In a separate recent Oxfam poll, more than half of people immediately mentioned hunger, famine or poverty when speaking about Africa.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I got very jaded and disillusioned with all the Aid to Africa campaigns when I saw a lot of pictures from Addis Ababa which is a lush green city and obviously quite affluent yet we were being told that Ethiopia was in the middle of a drought and had no money..

    Why should we help out African nations when they wont help themselves and our money gets syphoned off by corrupt officials?

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    I lived in Africa for many years,and was appalled at the way NGO's spent donated monies.
    It went predominantly on their lifestyles.
    They lived like rich people,in large compounds;top of the range 4x4's;maids;gardeners;drivers;Club memberships;etc.,eating money faster than people could donate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Sounds like better marketing needed. But what if agencies like DfID that don't depend directly on donations and NGOs are sending different messages. Is there unity among even the NGOs in terms of the picture and messages they project on Africa. And then there are the current (extended) financial challenges that face families that are considering donating. Sophistication, coordination needed

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I was recently speaking to a 94 year old friend of my grandma's who said she remembered charity workers asking for donations for African aid when she was 4 years old, yet still, 90 years later, poverty, corruption and suffering continue largely unabated in the continent. I don't believe people are desensitised, but are questioning the point of donating when it appears to have no affect whatsoever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I would be very interested to hear how much Oxfam chief executive Dame Barbara Stocking earns in a year......and what proportion (if any) of that salary she donates.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Africa had a lot going for it in truth. But rather than giving aid, it would be better if we stopped exploiting Africa. The people don't see any of the money from their resources sold to foreign companies. Sort out the bad tax regulations so they can see some profit and move into producing finished goods rather than just supplying raw materials.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I often get stopped in the street by "chuggers" and also get their equivalent on my doorstep, all wanting me to sign up for "Just £3 per month" infinitum. I consider myself to be a reasonably charitable person, but if there's one thing that deters me from giving it's this direct "in yer face" approach!

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    It's high time that Africa takes responsibility for their weaker and vulnerable sections of society, showing they appreciate their own responsibilities and are taking positive actions.Check their GDP growth-rate. Just continuing a flow of aid will not result in a long -term internaly-generated and "owned" solutions. It will instill long-term dependency. Very sad, but true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Had they only fed those women who agreed to be sterilised there would have been a solution to Africa's problem. Using the money instead to replace children as a pension. Far too much of emotive nonsense is tried on over many things all making bad results, like the dog law or knee jerk ban guns laws. Emotive reaction is bad reaction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I used to support this type of campaign but not anymore.

    When this government starts looking after its own people and keeping them out of poverty I might listen. In my area the number of people requiring food parcels etc has trebled in the last couple of years.

    I do feel sorry for these children but it is not up to the man in the street to feed and keep them alive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    How many charities depend on Africa? Charity should start at home. If I think that I must help my neighbour because they are poorer than me then I am patronising. If I think that I must help my neighbour because they are different from me then I am a bigot. Africa may be screwed up and it may take many generations for it to resolve its problems, but it should be doing it itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    > 10.

    This is why the only African charity I will ever support is Barney Curley's DIRECT AID where every penny goes where it should be going and not misspent elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    There is some truth to the suggestions that some western media working in Africa look for images of war, endless tribal conflicts, hunger and endemic poverty. But countries like Botswana, Namibia, Ghana and others give a different picture since a long time. The question is: who has an interest in recounting the few but increasing african success stories?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    What is needed here is the education of the people, both those in need of the aid to point out that they wouldn't need it if their gov. was not corrupt. Plus the gov. to point out we ain't giving anymore 'cos we ain't got it to give.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Stop showing "images showing hunger, drought and disease". Follow the example of AFRIKIDS showing happy faces, i.e. the result of doing the right things in Africa. More to the point, stop creating and sustaining this dependency culture which helps no one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    I am a South African and let me tell you that the biggest mistake the developed nations can make is to donate money to Africa. That money never reaches the intended recipients, it only fuels more greed and corruption. It makes the small group of immensely rich politicians even richer. If you want to help, then help by giving free training and education. Train nurses, or farmers, or craftsmen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Getting the evils of the church out of Africa would be a bigger help than anything else. It would do far more good than me putting my hand in my pocket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    They have a negative image which is tough luck. They cannot stop tribal warfare, have over milked the guilt of former colonialist powers, and their corrupt politicians are doing quite well out of aid handed out to them. Add to this the high salaries of the executives of the aid suppliers and we say enough is enough

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    The total amount that has been lent to the banks in the last 10 years could feed every starving person on the planet for the same amount of time.

    This world and its leaders has a seriously misguided sense of priorities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    While they keep killing their elephants and rhinos to buy arms with, they will not get a penny from me.


Page 23 of 25


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.