The website is well put-together. The United Nations blue runs throughout, giving it that stamp of authorit: Facts about the delivery of safe drinking water to the people of Burundi, especially the children – those poor children. We can drill boreholes, wells and springs to change the lives of whole districts of people in the “Heart of Africa”.
A smattering of depressing water-related facts are placed within the website, and would all this be over without a touching video with African drums pounding in the background. There is of course a gallery of photos with those poor Burundian children playing in the dirt and trying to make the best of their lives. Burundi, we’re told, is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. It’s up to us to take action to save them.
Beyoncé, in partnership with UNICEF is running a project in Burundi to supply clean, safe water to different communities through drilling boreholes, wells and springs. You can even buy a swanky T-Shirt as well – 100% of the donations made will be going towards this project. This noble initiative is an example for other Burundian and African communities.
“Access to water is a fundamental right. When you give children clean and safe water, you don’t just give them life, you give them health, an education and a brighter future,” says Beyoncé.
Two tales, one story. The history of philanthropy in Africa is a thorny subject. When done well, the benefits are obvious, however, allow me to present the other side of the coin using Beyoncé’s Burundi campaign as a case study.
The main thing that such initiatives serve to do today in the 21st century is to further perpetuate Africa as a continent to be saved. Even with Google being a staple of human life, mist citizens of the world know little to nothing about Africa and its 54 nations. We’re always presented as being “other” to them. Like occupants of another planet.
In a time when Africa is trying to burst out of the shackles of poverty that have been bearing her down since colonial times, more investment, and not donations, need to be the focus.
As of the 2017 World Bank list of fastest growing economies in the world, three countries made the list. Ethiopia topped the list with an economic growth rate of 8.3%, Tanzania tied at number 5 with India at 7.2% and Djibouti came in at number 6 with 7%.
Not only that, but entrepreneurship is ballooning across the continent. The Harvard Business Review owes this to embracing of indigenous creativity as a response to new market realities. “Investors and those planning to open businesses in the continent should be aware of this change in the competitive landscape. In this period of economic turbulence, the locals have the edge because they have embraced frugal innovation.”
They further go on to warn foreign brands who are used to African countries as being easy pickings. “The old construct of acceleration of consumerism where foreign brands merely open sales offices in Africa without design or research centers will be challenged by African entrepreneurs.”
That’s the long and short of it.
Beyoncé’s campaign would be better off investing in a Burundian entrepreneur or two, help scale up their business and them make a change within their own community. In the 21st century, this is the way to “bring aid” to Africa.