A group of South African students and an aid agency in Norway are challenging the stereotypical image of Africa as a continent riddled with conflict, disease, corruption, poverty, and brutal dictatorships needing rescue from developed nations.
And they're doing it with humor and a video parody of Live Aid that's gone viral. The group turned the tables by producing a fictional Christmas appeal video that portrays Norway as a bitterly cold country full of freezing people in need.
You've heard of "Feed the World"? This is "Heat the World." There won't be snow in Africa, but there will be in Norway, so the good people of Sunny Africa want to donate radiators — thus the name Radi-Aid — to poor Norwegians suffering from the cold and dying of frostbite.
The video is humorous, but there is a serious message. The point is that images of helpless Africans are just as inaccurate as the idea of helpless freezing Norwegians. A lot of Africans cannot relate to the patronizing videos and development initiatives.
The organization says it has certain goals with the video. Among them, that fundraising "should not be based on exploiting stereotypes" and that media should have more respect in portraying suffering children.
"We want to see more nuances," it writes on its website. "We want to know about positive developments in Africa and developing countries, not only about crises, poverty and AIDS. We need more attention on how western countries have a negative impact on developing countries."
(Suzanne Lennon is a producer at NPR's London bureau.)