Are We Ever to Say “NO” to Handouts?

If you have not read it already, then allow me to recap a bit of what has been going on Malawi. Madonna adopted some kids and funded some schools- no surprise there.  She is one of many celebrities that have taken the route. Recently, Madonna landed in Malawi with a demand for VIP status. President Banda was not so happy with the visit that she made a remark criticizing Madonna and her red carpet moment. Turns out that H.E Banda did not actually say what the media seems to be quoting left and right. However whether, Banda said it or not, someone in her administration is pissed off enough to make a public statement about the presence of Madonna in Malawi.

 But more to the point is the reaction of many Africans on what is perceived a wrong move for Malawi’s leadership to criticize a do-gooder who came in to help the “poor” children. First of, lets congratulate the leadership for criticizing instead of welcoming Madonna on a red carpet like some of their western counterparts do when it comes to celebrity worship. The truly sad thing is that Africans seem to be okay with handouts. The whole mentality of “atleast someone is doing something” and “ everyone needs help” is detrimental to Africa’s progress. Yes, someone is doing something- but is it the right “something”, and it might be that everyone needs help- but what kind of help, and who is helping? These are the questions that these kinds of incidences should be raising.

Africans, whether living abroad, or living in the continent have become too comfortable with the idea of Aid, handouts, and being constantly perceived as “poor”. We are WAY comfortable with this whole idea that we cannot progress without having do gooders in the continent building a school here, a well there, a hospital here…etc. The problem with this, is that well, it is patchwork. If you have a big hole on a piece of clothing, the proper way to deal with that is either take it to the tailor and make a whole different outfit, or buy a new piece of clothing. If you place a patch, even if it might be similar in color, it ends up becoming a temporary solution because this patch will not last- not to mention makes the clothing less appealing. So imagine if you had more than one hole on the piece of clothing? Patches don’t just work, nor even become a viable option for you.

The same applies to Africa. There are gaping holes in Africa. Problems with no easy solutions, nor should they be. However, we as Africans have developed a mentality where it is okay to put patches, finding temporary solutions to problems, but never truly understanding nor fixing the root of the problem. Sometimes, we put a pretty flower on top of the problem when celebrities come in and attempt to solve the problems, but at the end of the day, the flowers die, and problems still exist.

You see the mentality of always waiting for a handout breeds other problem. It could be said that this might be the source of some of the problems where we don’t respect each other enough to pay for the services that are rendered to us by our fellow Africans. We figured, if Madonna is coming to our homes and giving us free education, then our fellow Africans should do the same.

But enough of that. At the end of the day- we need to start pulling ourselves out of this stump that we have put ourselves in by thinking that it is okay to accept aid in all shapes and forms. IT IS NOT OKAY! If Tom, Dick and Harry want to work in Africa, let them INVEST in Africa. We are past Aid- and the way forward is investing in Africa and Africans. So yes, if Madonna wants to invest in education in Malawi, let her do so. Because building a school will not do the trick- the problem at the end of the day is not the lack of schools.

One day, Africans will decide that they don’t need the pity of Hollywood, Nollywood, Bollywood, or any wood celebrities. Because unlike any sustainable development gimmicks in Africa, aid, or pity has long-lasting psychological effects that cannot be wiped out by a good deed. It cripples development. We end up becoming dependent- thinking that we cannot or should not try to progress without someone coming in our savior .

At the end of the day Africa is ours to build or destroy- and so far, we are not sure if we want to do either- but lets not kid ourselves that Madonna and Oprah will do the job for us.


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