During the recent Africa Day in The Hague, Holland, BrandOutLoud* director Judith Madigan took part in the second Oude meesters, jonge honden [old icons and generation 2.0] debate on emergency aid in Africa. She spoke about the image of aid provision to the continent and asked whether aid organisations can still ‘sell’ Africa? And she wrote a column about the above video they made:

I know nothing about emergency aid. In fact, I’d never even been to Africa. Therefore a few weeks ago I went with our film crew out on the streets. It was a confrontational day of ‘sad and starving children’, and ‘bulging bellies’. Surprising? No.

For years, charities have used negative images of pitifully hungry children for fundraising. Compassion and a sense of guilt to induce people to provide (financial) support. This has been the pattern of communication for over 60 years and still is today! Little has changed since the days of LiveAid and people on the street now say. “I’m sick of it. Can’t it be done differently? We always see the same image of starving children looking for food among the rubbish. Where’s the money we sent them?” The pitch has become implausible and the public is ready for a different picture and a different approach.

While the images of Africa have remained the same, the image of development has changed. The industry itself has created a negative, stigmatising image of Africa. We must no longer hide behind arguments like ‘it brings in the most money’ or ‘the ends justify the means’. How can we change the existing image? By looking into opportunities and learning from young organisations where engagement between the purpose of a project and the donor or volunteer comes first. And above all by showing the power and strength of the people themselves. Remain realistic – situations are often terrible, but those concerned are an essential part of that change. The people on the street are open to this view–listen and talk to them, and take them seriously.

*According to BrandOutLoud’s PR information, “we believe powerful imagery is the key to successful communication: Visualise to persuade. BrandOutLoud is a Dutch non-profit organisation that provides tailor-made branding & communications to local aid organisations worldwide.”


Further Reading

This is Congo

A long-awaited documentary takes a look at the state of politics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and highlights those who are working to build a new future.