Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem:

Sir Bob (aka Saint Bob) Geldof on Tuesday ended speculation about staging a repeat of his 1985 Live Aid concert that raised global awareness about Famine in Africa. The successful re release of the record  Do they Know its Christmas time’ last Christmas, 20 years after the original one fuelled speculations that Live Aid could be repeated this year too.  Further pressures for this restaging had to do with the politics that led  to and the prominent role Geldof played in instigating Blair to set up his Commission for Africa. The CfA report committed the British government to making  Africa a centre piece of British Chairmanship of both the EU  and the G8 from next month. A number of campaigns by NGOs and development lobbyists   in the UK culminating in the yearlong MAKE POVERTY HISTORY’ coalition are also contributing to shaping the British agenda. The symbolism and propaganda value of these orchestrated coincidences were just overwhelming. The NGO world but the very Big International ones in particular, are more and more media-driven. Therefore packaging misery and targeting critical national and global events have become necessary tool kits for massive fundraising. In that context it was difficult to see how Geldof could resist the pressure for  another show’. Despite initial declarations to the contrary Tuesday’s announcement showed how Bob despite being the global face of this humanitarian effort is also driven by its opportunistic dynamics. The campaign has been so successful that even if he had refused to cooperate they would have manufactured another Media saint to front it. It has become a global brand for sleek missionary activity on Africa. And there are plenty of Mega stars and their publicists and assorted moguls of the entertainment industry who will do anything to harness the global good will and market that such a huge concert bring. Just as it is difficult for any big name to say No to Bob so it has become impossible for St Bob to say No to one more time’.

The compromise show that may still be regarded by many as LIVE Aid despite it being launched  as, LIVE 8. Despite the fact that it will bring together all the big names in Western Music the concert will not be just about music and charity. Geldof and his colleagues learning from  both their two decades experience of doing charity and criticisms of opponents of Aid have come to accept that charity (while still important as human demonstration of empathy and solidarity) is not the way forward for helping Africa. This is a very important shift. LIVE 8 will focus on the G8 leaders meeting the same week as the concert is being held in London and other 4 Western cities; Paris, Berlin, Rome and Philadelphia. In Britain the organisers are hoping that they will be able to mobilise a Million protesters to converge on Edinburgh to demand AN END TO POVERTY IN AFRICA, FAIR TRADE, DEBT WRITE OFF and MORE AID for Africa. Similar protests are supposed to take place simultaneously in all G8 countries.

As one of those people critical of Aid addicted Africans and the Western Aid pushers    what can I possibly have against the proposed concert  especially the shift to some form of direct action? I welcome the shift and salute the courage of those building this solidarity movement for Africa. In particular shifting the debate away from Aid may help to recover some of the loss of self-respect and attacks on the dignity of Africans consequent to constant negative images of starving Africa in order to extract Western sympathy. It may help to stop seeing Africa and Africans as victims but agents of our own fortunes and misfortunes, even if often in collaboration or collusion with others. More importantly the shift should help focus on the structural linkages between our mass  poverty and the riches of the West.  So pervasive has been the humanitarian disaster  ideology about Africa that many westerners do not know  that critical components of their computers , mobile phones, jewellery, motor cars, museums,  and many of their day to day comfort items began life in Africa as precious metals and raw materials.

While all these mental shifts are both desirable and necessary I cannot help being troubled by the processes of engagement. Even good things can be done in the wrong ways. How is it defensible that 20 years after Live Aid and all the sea changes that Africa and the rest of the world have witnessed these activities are still being planned and executed without visible participation of Africans?  It is like trying to shave someone’s head in their absence.  Who are the big or small African artists, Musicians, cultural workers, etc, involved in this concert? Did they ask Hugh Masekela and he was too tired? Did Miriam Makeba say she was too busy? Is  Fela Kuti unable to break an engagement? Where is Baba Maal? What about Yousou Ndor?  What of Yvonne Chaka Chaka or Angelica Kidjo? Where are the Congo  Musicians? We can go on and on. Could there not have been a symbolic African venue for this multicity concerts? Surely even if many African countries do not have the facilities South Africa does have the infrastructure to broadcast to the whole world?

Even the wider Anti poverty campaigns essentially use Africans as colourful canvass to legitimise the narratives. They are wheeled on and off as the propaganda demands.

These omissions are not because of ignorance but the result of a mindset that infantilises Africans and cannot trust the Africans to do anything for themselves including even telling the world where our shoes are pinching us. That’s why you see so many well-fed  foreign experts’ and increasingly their Junior African partners getting huge sums of money to do poverty assessment and workshops across Africa. We are not even experts on our own poverty.  Africans are the only people doomed to be perpetual students of their own condition and further condemned to be perpetually taught by outsiders as experts, consultants, activists, defenders or spokespersons!

It is a repackaging of  the white man's burden’ ideology. The only way we can reverse this colonial mindset  is for us to relearn the Uhuru spirit of doing things for ourselves and unlearn the mental slavery  that makes us so vulnerable to outsiders.

Statistically , head for head, there are probably many millions more poor people in both India and China yet no western power dares suggest that they will create a commission for India or China. While India is seen as being able to solve her problems China is now even more feared as a serious global power.

Neither the Chinese nor the Indians will want to be invited by others to seek solutions to their problems.

No amount of marches in Europe and global concerts for Africa will end poverty in Africa if Africans are not marching in their millions demanding and enforcing pro poor and pro people policies and democratic accountability from their own governments and institutions.

We cannot be spectators in our own affairs.