Charities (finally) embracing the ‘good’ in Africa - Guardian Blog
The good news story needs to be told: Poverty is reducing all over the world, not just in China and India, but in much of Africa as well. This is the general trend of the last century, with some blips, and progress since the turn of the millennium has been especially encouraging, spurred on by the international commitment galvanised behind the millennium development goals (MDGs).
Yet there are three reasons it is harder to get good news stories about Africa. First, it is only relatively recently that the development sector has been emphasising good news from Africa. And for good reason. Until recently the news was generally bad, as the disastrous 1980s turned to the only slightly better 1990s. Tony Blair memorably described Africa as a “scar on the conscience of the world” as recently as 2005. That kind of language was fairly typical until only a few years ago – now it would be considered old-fashioned, although it is still common. It takes much longer than a few years for people’s entrenched perceptions to change.
Second, charities concerned about Africa continue to undermine the good news narrative by basing their fundraising campaigns on desperate pictures of tragedy. While this can be justified by the fact that there is much tragedy (25 million children still die every year from preventable causes), and by the fact that market research shows that this is what motivates people to give money, it does little to contribute the positive story that ONE is rightly trying to tell. And to a certain extent you have to communicate the problem (which is a bad news story) to persuade people to care about doing something about it. It is a conundrum all charities and campaigns manage daily, and the answer is not simple.
Third, the news out of Africa is by no means always good. The picture is mixed, with some countries doing well and others poorly, and progress in most countries is uneven. As a result, income and general welfare are not improving, and are possibly degenerating, for many of the poorest Africans. So good news stories are tempered with bad news, muddying the simple narrative necessary to change long-held conceptions. In short, the good news will have to get even better, and last for a few more years, before the common wisdom that Africa is a development disaster is overturned.
But things are changing. Find out more at The Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog. You can find the full article by clicking here.