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Are They for Real? Oxfam’s Latest Africa Campaign Leaves Tolu Ogunlesi a Tad Puzzled

In an article for The Guardian, Nigerian writer Tolu Ogunlesi finds Oxfam’s latest campaign – to make Africa “famous for its epic landscapes, not hunger” – quite ridiculous.

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“It left me a tad puzzled. A w-t-f puzzlement. As in: is Oxfam for real?” Ogunlesi writes. He points out that Oxfam itself has probably done more than any other organisation to promote images of hungry African children over the years. Even more problematic is that all the blame is being placed on the images, rather than “people hanging on stubbornly to those images in the face of alternative evidence”.

Ogunlesi also wonders why we are still having this “African aid” argument at the beginning of 2013 when books like Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo and The Fastest Billion by Charles Robertson, Yvonne Mhango and Michael Moran have already so eloquently dealt with the subject.

The British charity Oxfam recently released an updated version of the Book of Lamentations. Something about how “the relentless focus on ongoing problems at the expense of a more nuanced portrait of [Africa], is obscuring the progress that is being made towards a more secure and prosperous future.”

That’s chief executive Barbara Stocking, as quoted by the BBC. Apparently the charity’s been doing some polling recently (in the UK), and coming up with interesting results. In one poll half of the respondents confessed that Africa conjured for them images of hunger, famine and poverty. In another poll, almost half of the 2,000 respondents thought Africa’s biggest challenge was hunger. Three out of four were suffering from ‘Africa-fatigue’ – that debilitating condition that afflicts well-meaning foreign philanthropists exposed to an endless stream of images of suffering and torment originating from the dark continent.

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