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Does Africa Need Saving?

By: Nya E. Williams



Hello everyone! In today’s post, I would like to take a break from the more motivational posts that we usually post on this blog and talk about a more serious topic.

Throughout this semester, I have been attending a History 350 course on Saving Africa and Development and Humanitarianism, and the question that this class was centered around is, “Does Africa need saving?” In my opinion, I feel that Africa does need saving, but by the right individuals with the correct intentions.

What I mean by that statement is that I believe that there is no one that can help Africa like Africans themselves. Otherwise it causes miscommunication due to the lack of information on what African nations really need.

There are many instances in which African communities have been negatively altered as a result of developers making changes.

For example, in the book titled “Once Intrepid Warriors,” when developers arrived to the Maasai development, they restructured the livestock process so that the men were the ones harvesting the cows and selling them. Prior to this, the women took the milk from the cows and sold it, which was the Maasai’s primary source of money.

On page 218 of the novel, the author summarizes that USAID “experts” assumed that Maasai raised cattle for beef rather than milk. This was partly due, as Kettel has noted for pastoralist development projects generally, to Western assumptions that since women were involved in milking, milking could not be that important economically to the maintenance of the household. (Hodgson, 218)”

This blatant disregard of the traditions of this group of people would not have happened if one of the Maasai’s own was in charge of the development process.


Another example of the blatant disregard of African culture would be in a book that I read while taking the History 350 course titled the “Anti-Politics Machine” written by James Ferguson.

In this novel, it talks about the African nation Lesotho and the ways that the United States government has given the country massive amounts of foreign aid based on wrong assumptions about the country. One of the negative assumptions about this country is that the country itself is less developed than its very rich neighbor South Africa.

When actually as stated on page 177 of the book, “poverty can be explained largely by the dearth of natural resources within its boundaries, together with the incompleteness with which they have been ‘developed’.(Ferguson, 177)”

In other words, the country is poor because South Africa has taken all of the good soil and therefore Lesotho cannot grow as much. Which probably is not known by outside developers, and therefore a person that is living in Lesotho and knowsthe history of the country should be the one to head its development and save the country.

Africa should be saved by the people who know the countries within it the best because generally the people who have grown up within these countries won’t try to help because of ulterior motives.

Many people who try to come and “save” African nations have something called a White Savior Industrial Complex, as stated in the article titled “White Savior Industrial Complex” written by Teju Cole. In the article she states, “Africa has provided a space onto which white egos can conveniently be projected.

It is a liberated space in which the usual rules do not apply: a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied. (Cole)”

This is why the people who lived and grew up within these countries should help to develop them, they wouldn’t have this complex.


Lastly, in the book titled Development: A Semantic History written by H.W. Arndt, the author discusses development from a timeline standpoint.

On page 465, he discusses the way in which people viewed development post Great Depression and WWII. He states, “In the immediate postwar years, “economic development” became virtually synonymous with growth in per capita income in the less developed countries. (Arndt)”

The people in the countries that are seemingly underdeveloped by the rest of the world understand why these countries are indeed so poor. Like I stated above, if the country lacks resources because of the lack of usable land, then there is no way for them to grow capital to become developed.


Does Africa need to be saved? In my opinion, yes, but not in the context that people tend to think.

Africa needs to be saved from the very people who are trying to save it because they do not properly understand the African nations the way that the Africans themselves do.

If the continent of Africa was left in the hands of the most capable of its own people, then it is my opinion that they will become developed within their own definition of development.

So, to answer the question posed, Africa should be saved by the people who actually know how to save it, which are the Africans themselves.





Works Cited

Arndt , H W. “Economic Development: A Semantic History.” The University of Chicago Press Journals , The University of Chicago Press.

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 11 Jan. 2013, www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/.

Ferguson, James. The Anti-Politics Machine "Development", Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho. University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

Hodgson, Dorothy L. Once Intrepid Warriors Gender, Ethnicity, and the Cultural Politics of Maasai Development. Indiana University Press, 2006.


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