White Saviors in Africa - By Abeiku Ebo
White saviors refer to the European individuals going to Africa to fix or help them with the problems of struggling nations in a context perceived to benefit the individuals. Some celebrities post pictures and videos of themselves with poor African children with the motive of pushing a charitable image for themselves. Some of these celebrities accused of the white savior complex are Madonna, Ed Sheran, Stacey and many others. Two ladies in Uganda launched the no white saviors campaign whose aim is to highlight underlying discrimination in development narratives of Africa that promote colonial ides of Africans being helpless victims.
Stacey Dooley, a breakout star of strictly come dancing, posted a picture of her with a kid from Uganda that went viral because of her caption “obsessed”. She was making a film in Uganda for comic relief. England’s Labour party member of parliament, David Lammy, commented on Stacey Dooley’s picture that “the world does not need any more white saviors”. Dooley tried to defend herself by saying that the child’s parents had permitted her to take the picture and that the family was benefiting from her charity work. When the family was asked about this, they confirmed all of this information to be false.
Renee Bach, an American missionary went to Uganda to help children with medical care. Although Bach was unskilled in the field of medicine, with just a high school diploma, she launched a non-governmental organization called Serving His Children to help the children. It is believed that Bach herself administered medical help even though she had no skills in that sector. Mothers took their children to this NGO thinking that it was registered and that Bach was a qualified doctor. Batch and her NGO continued to compromise the lives of children and the activities of her NGO led to the death of around 105 children. (abc news) Although the ‘white saviors’ might have had good intentions for struggling nations, their activities may cause harm to the people they intended to help.
Many Africans find the attitude of white saviorism as deeply patronizing and offensive due to the history of colonization and slavery. Some say it is a counter-productive strategy where African countries will continue being dependent on European countries. The criticism of white saviors is about the impact of their actions to the Africans but not on the intentions of the white savior individuals. (Cole) Madonna’s actions of adopting a child from Malawi can be attributed to a white savior complex. She promised to build a well-equipped school in rural areas in Malawi for girls but the project was later canceled.
The Ed Sheeran case was another instance white saviorism where the whites are depicted as heroes for helping Africans. He released a video that received a lot of criticism for being offensive and stereotypical. Ed Sheeran acted by building a home for two homeless children. Live Aid held an iconic concert in Ethiopia with the intention of creating awareness of the Ethiopian famine to the world. The co-founder of Live Aid said that the concert helped put Ethiopia to the spotlight but the aid workers contradicted his statement saying that poverty-stricken Ethiopia still remained forgotten.
There have been many instances where white people have intended to help the people of Africa but their intentions failed to produce their intended results. Most of the times these unintended consequences cause harm to those they were supposed to help and the white saviors are responsible for such. Some projects actually do help people but some people argue that it conveys the idea that Africa needs white people to save them from their problems.