Africa image harming aid effort, says charity Oxfam

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

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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    We've said for years that this culture of handing over money at the drop of a hat isn't helping anybody, least of all Africa itself. If we want to improve peoples' lives, we can't just expect to be able to throw cash at the problem states and hope for the best. History shows that the money ends up being spent on weapons or frivolities by corrupt militia or politicians. They need THINGS, no cash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    It is highly hypocritical of OXFAM to suggest that Africa's Image is harming aid effort. OXFAM and its allies have always dwelt on the shock-factor to extract as much money as possible from their supporters in the West, and the best way they did/are doing this was/is to bring out the worst possible images of Africa. I used to be an active supporter of OXFAM, but now I don't. Gross hypocrisy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    190.Human Torch
    Just now
    UK is scared of a united developed prosperous Africa.
    Scared , no because this will never occur, united by corruption is about the best you can expect if aids has not wiped the population out first! Africa lost it when we left, no sign of things changing, with or without our vast sums of aid to date. Backwards sums africa up, even piracy, now that is progress, not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    When some People in the West cannot afford to have kids, it's a bit rich to ask for money to support some African family with 5+ kids.And why is it .07% of GPD,why is it not a % of Taxation.ATM we have to BORROW OURSELVES to pay for UK Plc, no matter giving borrowed money away..yes they may be poor and on $3/day, but they they don't pay $2 for a litre of fuel either like we's all relative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    Billions and billions of pounds have been poured into Africa over decades and it is no further forward now than it has ever been.
    By all means teach them to stand on their own two feet instead of teaching them the British disease of depending on handouts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    "Africa does not need food aid it needs to stop being abused and given back to it's people to grow their own food."

    That happened in Zimbabwe. Post independence, the locals dug up the irrigation pipes for scrap, turned it into a dust bowl, ultra hi inflation.and Robert Mugabe is living the good life.

    Get the pope to endorce condoms in his Xmas message.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Kingfisherphil - not to mention the vast mineral wealth which has been appropriated by Uncle Bob and his cronies. Not content with pillaging the countries diamond wealth now ALL mining companies must be 51% owned by Zimbabwians. Why shouldn't these companies be entitled the reap the benefits when they invest all that time, expertise, effort, vision and of course, money?

  • Comment number 198.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    156.David H - "......Well the money is going somewhere?
    Because there's little evidence of progress......"

    You can only come to that conclusion if you make no effort whatsoever to search out the progress.....even if your assertion was correct why how can that be automatically conferred as evidence of corruption/waste?

    If there is so much corruption show us the EVIDENCE for it.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    People are not stupid. They see that the real problem is the cruelly uneven wealth distribution in Africa. They see that the population has increased to 400% since 1955.
    And we are sick of a contorted African history that puts the whole blame on our colour and gender.
    Africa was a mess before Europeans. Now it's an overcrowded mess with some aid.
    My feelings are numb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    I'm desensitized to it because they're ridiculously long adverts - which are not cheap! And they try to make you feel guilty for being born in the UK! Send them condoms and contraceptive pills, not money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Re. 176
    With the exception of Zimbabwe, probably, and a few countries currently at war, you would be most welcome to move to any African country of your choosing, provided that you can fill a skills gap.

    Though I'm sure that the last thing Africa needs is another person to lecture and patronise, so maybe stay put.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Corruption is a major issue in most African countries. 'Presidents for Life' pocket money which comes right back to Europe in their big, fat bank accounts. Another is contraception, or rather, lack of it. 9, 10 children per woman is extremely common and expected. Why should we pay for this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Corruption, corruption, corruption. That's a common theme throughout Africa. Donor countries must insist on far more transparency. It is criminal that so many corrupt politicians are stealing their own country's future. The core population of most countries in Africa have the ability to shape their own destiny if given the means to do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Oxfam needs to look at the state of Zimbabwe, under our influence and Rhodesia it was a fertile, prosperous nation, the envy of africa. Under Mugabe it has been screwed and he has taken vast wealth. South Africa is one to watch, will it go the same way? These guys seem unable to run a country and many make Berlusconi look good. The days of mugs in UK donating to Oxfam are over!

  • Comment number 190.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    was it not orgs like Oxfam who peddled these images to the detriment of other narratives and now they're saying these images aren't helping. how about Oxfam stops tryin to be the expert on other people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    I'm well and truly sick of Africa being used as a modern day "coals in the baths" story where very time you want to deal with some of the quite horrific problems in this country you are told nothing should be done because "there are starving black babies in Africa". Africa clearly has genuine problems, but it is also clear that giving them "aid" has not helped and possibly made things worse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    I wish people will Google the fastest growing economies in the world, they will be surprised that, almost half of them are in Africa. It is not in the interest of Oxfam and other charities to admit that Africa is doing well. Actually we African are fed up being portrayed in a negative pitiful way. We trade with China on equal basis, European are condescending and wants to give handouts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    What we don't need is more gala charity dinners to highlight hunger in Africa.


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