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Ciku Kimeria
Writer, Adventurer, Development Consultant, Travelblogger
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piqer: Ciku Kimeria
Tuesday, 06 November 2018

What Can We Do About The White Savior Complex In Africa?

Sometimes, when I am with my African friends and we are bemoaning the structure of the development/aid sector in Africa, one of us might say, "These foreigners who have come to save Africa won't even employ Africans or pay the Africans they employ anything close to what they pay their white colleagues." 

“The white people were bosses, and the black people reported to them. And even when you had a Ugandan who was at management level, somehow, at least in practice, they seemed to be reporting to another American at that same level. It didn’t show on the organizational chart. On the chart, they looked like equals. But, in practice, they had to report and their work had to be reviewed by somebody who is in theory at their level, but happens to be American, and therefore presumably more competent.”

A few recent events have reopened the discussions about the white savior complex in the development/aid space in Africa. One of them was a recent viral video that showed an American missionary in Uganda screaming racial slurs and throwing punches at hotel workers in Kampala. The other is a recent Propublica article that is about an American charity in Liberia that was started to help girls avoid sexual exploitation, but the girls were actually being exploited by one of the co-founders. 

And while NGOs do play a useful role, an honest discussion is needed about the racist structures that persist in the sector. This is one of the many reasons I am enthusiastic about home-grown initiatives to make the sector accountable to those it serves. Epic-Africa  – with its Kenyan and Ghanaian founders Rose Maruru Taal and Adwoa Agyeman – is one such initiative to look out for. The two ladies have a wealth of experience in the development sector, an understanding of the challenges in the African context and want to use data on African Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to disrupt the power balance where white-led NGOs are seen as saviors and black-led NGOs have no visibility on the global scale. 
What Can We Do About The White Savior Complex In Africa?
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