I am ashamed to admit I had no idea who Fuse ODG is but I share the concerns about the long term damage of well-meaning but misguided images of African suffering he expressed in his Guardian piece ‘Why I had to turn down Band Aid.’ It is 30 years since the original drew much needed attention to the famine in Ethiopia. 30 years. Yet even today when I tell a cabdriver taking me to Heathrow that’s where I’m headed, the questions are about starving children. On one occasion I was asked whether I’ll be taking my own food ‘cos it would be wrong for me to take some of theirs whilst I’m out there.
I do of course know who Bob Geldof is. We are contemporaries. I rejoice in the memory of Live Aid and Geldof’s Christ-like exhaustion and anger. The Christmas of Band Aid too: Inspiring examples of clear sighted youth in action. ‘This is simple. Cut the crap, granddad. This is wrong and we can do something about it.’ Glorious, heady days. But Mr Geldof and I are no longer young. There is a world of difference between Africa today and that of the 1980s. Plus Ebola in West Africa is already on the global agenda, unlike that famine of biblical proportions in the Horn. Even using the same basic song lumps the two widely different situations, decades and time zones apart, together. The time, the location and the situation deserve a very different song.
Nigeria’s triumph over Ebola has been too little reported and way too little celebrated. It would seem all the things well-wishers, advisers, donors and development partners have been banging on about for decades have actually come together and delivered: Strong leadership, civil engagement, empowered public services, effective communications strategies and even public-private partnerships. If ever there was an opportunity, no an absolute imperative to stop, shake our heads and cry ‘Wow, WAWA! (West Africa Wins Again) surely this is it. And not just a flash in the pan. Nigeria may be on the verge of Polio eradication too. Now that should be sung about.
What hit home to me in Mr ODG’s article was his comments about dignity. I have seen greater dignity evidenced more often in West Africa than anywhere else I’ve ever been. I was lucky enough to spend a large part of the 1990s in Ghana. I rejoice in his statement ‘Anyone who has experienced Africa in a positive way is a citizen of the New Africa.’ So as a fellow citizen I’ve just gone onto YouTube and watched him perform TINA.
WAWA!

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