As soon as the morbid mundanity of Band Aid 30 hit the airwaves, my news feed was flooded by Guardian-style think-pieces. They all harboured the same overbearing, moralising tone. Each giving the impression that as far as the bloggers were concerned, the initial brainstorming sessions for the project may as well have involved Bob Geldof and the CEO of Monsanto cackling in a boardroom for five solid hours.
The article which crystallised the ludicrous nature of this notion was one published on Al Jazeera, entitled ‘We got this, Bob Geldof, so back off’, a collation of opinions from various African academics. Every voice seethes against Geldof’s endeavour, branding the song “patronising” and “a perverse example of a messiah complex.” While these comments may be valid, the extent to which they blame Band Aid for their ills is troubling.
Financial analyst Dawit Gebreselassie contends that charity songs such as Band Aid 30 paint a negative image of Africa, arguing that his home country of Ethiopia “has been trying to depict a new bright image to the world so as to attract tourists and foreign direct investment”, but is hindered by the presence of Band Aid reminding the world of the original campaign. All of this is said with a straight face while British national Andargachew Tsege is held political prisoner by the Ethiopian government, facing execution. If a country wants to depict itself as fit for tourism and foreign investment, then that country should not engage in barbaric activities where those possible visitors fear for their lives by speaking out against the government. Investment and the development of infrastructure is vital to the success of any state; while this may be impeded by charities branding nations as helpless, needy husks, it should be recognised that in this case, the hindrance lies far closer to home than Band Aid 30.
However, the most overwhelming incongruity that purveys the whole article is that the problem of Ebola is not one to be sorted out by the Western world, Africa can handle it all by itself. I find this problematic: we are a linked, unified, global entity. When a virus as rampant as Ebola spreads, the Western world becomes concerned not because of the “White Man’s Burden”, but because we might catch the thing as well. The efforts made by foreign aid illustrate that Ebola is not Africa’s problem, like the academics imply, but everyone’s problem.
Also, let us all remember that Bob Geldof is a human being who lost his daughter earlier this year and in the face of this immense grief has been able to keep himself together to create something that is trying to make the world a better place. Think about that before discrediting the entire project as his attempt to remain relevant, I’m sure that is one of the least of his worries.
Yes, Bad Aid 30 may be misguided in many ways. Yes, the campaign has its pitfalls. But, at least it’s attempting to do something good, which is a damn sight more than a lot of us can say we are doing.
Image from BBC.