My friend and colleague Ethan Zuckerman has written a beautiful post in response to criticism of his recent posts about Live8. Be sure to read the comments left by African bloggers at the bottom of his posts too. Ethan's analysis of Live8, plus his roundups here and here at Global Voices Online linking to what African bloggers have to say about the whole thing, are much more useful reading than most of the MSM's Live8 coverage. He writes:
In several of the interviews I watched on CNN and MTV, concert performers and fans referenced “the issue of Africa”, “the African cause”, or “the problem of Africa”.
Africa’s not an issue. It’s not a cause or a problem. It’s a continent - a complicated, confusing, beautiful continent, with wealth and poverty, peace and strife, success and tragedy. When Africa becomes a cause, we tend to see only one side of the continent - a helpless, dependent, starving side that “needs our help”.
To actually accomplish the goal of Live 8 - the elimination of poverty in Africa - Americans and Europeans have to get a great deal smarter about this other Africa. This Africa needs investment and trade, rather than just aid and debt forgiveness This Africa is open for business. This Africa is as important and as real as the Africa that needs help.
Aid dollars don’t eliminate poverty - integration into a global economy does. (South Korea and Ghana had approximately the same per capita income when Ghana gained independence in 1957. South Korea’s income per capita has increased roughly fifteen times in constant dollar terms, while Ghana’s has fallen slightly. You may notice that we buy a great deal more from South Korea than we do from Ghana.) If the goal of Live 8 were to help people see the African continent as a place they want to visit, a place they want to open businesses in, a place they want to engage with, as opposed to a place they want to save, I’d be more likely to share Brian’s hopes.
But that would be a very different concert. It would be one that celebrated the cultural richness of the continent by putting African artists on stage, rather than inviting them - after Geldof was shamed by Peter Gabriel - to perform at a parallel event a hundred miles away from the main action. It would be one that put African leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators on stage, rather than using a silent young Ethiopian woman as a stage prop for Madonna and Geldof. It would be one that was more focused on changing the global image of Africa than on somehow changing the minds of the eight guys sitting around a table in Scotland.