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‘Africa gives the world more than we give it’

PRIDE: The 150 metre-high African Renaissance Monument in Dakar, Senegal, depicting an African family. The monument is taller than the Statue of Liberty and Brazil’s Christ The Redeemer statue combined

AFRICA IS recognised as the birthplace of humanity and some of the earliest civilisations such as Ancient Egypt.

It is the world’s second-largest continent, home to 54 countries speaking more than 2,000 languages among them, and boasts some of the largest quantities of crucial minerals such as copper, diamond, platinum, gold and bauxite, or aluminium ore.

Then, of course, is its oil supplies in Nigeria, Libya and Angola. Yet its international image is one of poverty, a continent in constant need of a whip-round from European benefactors – a tired portrayal that leaves Africans in and outside of the diaspora both frustrated and fatigued.

Sir Bob Geldof’s rebooted Band Aid 30 charity single, Do They Know It’s Christmas?, has reignited the debate on the thin line between what is patronising and what is empowering.

It is for this reason that the UK’s biggest-selling Afrobeats artist Fuse ODG made headlines when he revealed he turned down an invitation to feature on the record because it was “not in line” with his personal beliefs.

MOVEMENT

The chart-topping musician of Ghanaian descent has used his profile to champion This Is New Africa (TINA) – a movement he founded to showcase Africa as a vibrant and self-sufficient continent he is passionate about.

Though acknowledging Geldof’s heart may be in the right place, he said: “He approached me about being on the Band Aid song, however upon receiving the proposed lyrics, I felt the message…was not in line with the message of the New Africa movement.”

Fuse added: “After some consideration, I spoke with Geldof and informed him I would be unable to attend the studio session. Sir Bob Geldof respectfully acknowledged my decision.”

In a previous interview with The Voice, Fuse explained: “TINA sheds light on Africa in a positive way and focuses on how we can improve Africa. It’s not about just plying your talents in the Western world; it’s about going back home and helping…It’s on us to make noise about the good things that happen and spread the word.”


NEW AFRICA: Fuse ODG

In an open letter from Race Equality: In Music Industry – signed by academic Dr Robbie Shilliam and Hugh Francis, chair of UK Black Music, among others – revealed others had concerns about the single.

It noted: “While this is not a personal attack on Geldof, the reality is that for all the good intentions of the Band Aid 30 project to help Africans, what many within the African British and black music communities see from the published lineup is another form of Eurocentrism – the European off to help the African, without engagement with African musicians in Britain, let alone on the African continent.”

FLAWED

A recent report commissioned by Health Poverty Action, entitled Honest Accounts: The true story of Africa’s billion dollar losses, attempted to shed new light on the “flawed” idea that Western nations are constantly aiding Africa when in fact “it is Africa that is aiding the rest of the world”.

Director Martin Drewry said: “This report – looking at the amount Africa loses to the rest of the world, in comparison with what it receives in aid and other inflows – is a response to a growing unease we have at Health Poverty Action that the UK public is not hearing the truth about our financial relationship with Africa.

“The truth is that rich nations take much more from Africa than they give in aid – including through tax dodging, debt repayments, brain drain, and the unfair costs of climate change – all of which rich nations benefit from.”

DEBT

It estimated that while $134 billion flows into the continent predominantly in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid, $192 billion is generated through Africa’s natural resources, but lines the pockets of foreign companies or goes to pay off global debt.

The report noted: “For years the British public have been asked to donate money to Africa, yet the end to poverty is nowhere in sight….It is time for the British government, politicians, the media, and NGOs ourselves to stop misrepresenting our ‘generosity’ and take action to tackle the real causes of poverty.

“This includes urgent government action to close down the UK’s network of tax havens; an end to the plundering of African resources by multinational companies; an end to ‘aid’ as loans and greater transparency and accountability in all other loan agreements; and ambitious and far-reaching climate change targets.”

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