There's a big debate on Twitter at the moment prompted by David Lammy's comments about Stacey Dooley's work in Uganda and her Instagram of her and a young Ugandan child. What do you make of Comic Relief, the use of (mainly white) celebrities with these kinds of images to tug on the heartstrings, the portrayal of Africans as victims in need of saviours? Do you think this kind of aid is based around making us in the West feel good about ourselves and pat ourselves on the back? Do you think the West has a debt to places like Africa for the legacies of colonialism and slavery?
I agree with some of what David Lammy says and disagree with others: I don't think that celebrities and aid workers go to Africa with the mentality of a 'civilizing mission', and I think Comic Relief inevitably rely on celebrities raising the profile of the problems they are tackling to increase donations, however cynically that may be done. I do think that there is a tendency of this kind of work to make it about the celebrity and the 'saviour' riding in to save helpless victims, rather than an empowering message that recognises the real progress being made by people all across Africa and the continent as a whole. I also think there is a debate to be had about the effectiveness of aid and whether it promotes dependency in the long-term. Finally, I think the teaching of the history of colonialism is quite awful and we'd benefit a lot from knowing more about the darker side of our history such as the Bengal famine and the suppression of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya.