Members Login

BIEA Seminars: "Do they know it's Christmas" Really!? Philanthropy in a time of Ebola.

February 9, 2015

Panel Discussion. 

Date: Friday, 13 February 2015
Time: 3.00 pm- 5.00 pm
Venue: British Institute in Eastern Africa, Laikipia Road, Kileleshwa, Nairobi

RSVP: Please contact

Dr. Firoze Manji (Pan-African Baraza)
Dr. Christine Sagini (Parliamentary Health Committee)

Wangui Kimari (York University)

From the Live Aid concerts of the 1980s, and again last December, to Kony2012, large-scale aid media events and philanthropic practices and discourses have proved remarkably persistent features of global North-South relations, despite being subjected to repeated critiques from both ends of the political spectrum. For example, Bob Geldof and his colleagues, unrelenting in their production of “quick fix” mechanisms for Africa, have faced considerable criticism for the recent “Band Aid 30” song recorded and sold to raise money for international efforts to contain the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, echoing resounding criticisms of previous, similar initiatives more than two decades ago. His two word “fuck-off” message to recent criticisms illustrate the contradictions and conceit that lie behind these charities, which hark back to their genesis in the philanthropy of industrial, class and merchant Capital during the Victorian era, and appear in some respects to have endured largely unreformed since. Moreover, these aid-as-spectacle events occur concurrently and conflictingly within and alongside the effects of continuing and expanding structural inequalities and neoliberal policies, such as the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) of the 1990s, exploitative trade agreements and mineral extraction, and the militarization of the continent under the imprint of 'security' agendas, which emerge from the same global North-South dynamics as the new celebrity endorsed philanthropy. Enter Ebola. The recent announcement—met with relatively little fanfare on the continent—that the US would send troops to help stem the spread of Ebola, was also couched in terms of historical philanthropic practices and discourses that purport to bring “Christmas” goodwill to those in need, but in ways that arguably benefit the donor most, particularly long ailing rock stars, all the while reifying longstanding images of a savage and pathetic Africa.
Engaging with these events, our forum seeks to attend to the following questions: What imperial effects, international capital processes, stereotypes and local agency on the ground do such aid endeavours presuppose, entail, reveal, and disguise? How, and by which measure, ought we to evaluate the effectiveness, “good” or desirability of aid, particularly "celebrity aid", this new philanthropy, as a mode of international engagement in Africa and beyond? What political opportunities for both would-be donors and recipients does this aid model, or even AID in general, open and foreclose, and at which scales, within which temporal horizons? What, then, is the way forward for “aid” on local, regional and international fronts?