3 satires of development

Consider these jokes that are more than jokes:

Your unneeded radiators can help freezing Norwegians.

Frostbite kills too. Just like poverty.

Check out this spoof of development videos – a fundraiser to send radiators to Norwegians because it is so cold there:



Compassionate singers and actors in Africa rally to raise funds to help the Norwegians cope with the pressures of living in their environment. Additional comment at end of this post.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oJLqyuxm96k#t=108

Two more spoofs:

A complete failure

An overapplication of rigorous evaluation of outcomes:

If Christopher Columbus had been funded by Gates – William Easterly at NY Development Research Institute

The Go West approach failed in its objectives. Other outcomes were not considered in the plan design so the unintended benefits of revealing a new continent cannot be considered by Capt. Columbus in his program evaluation. Program failed its objectives. Funding ended.

How to reform education throughout Kenya in one afternoon

How I changed Africa – Suvojit Chattopadhyay at his blog.

A spoof of a development expert who rather seriously overestimates his importance and is oblivious to the aid recipients knowing more than him.

On the results of his one day visit to the field, he concludes:

Overall, I think this was a highly successful trip. I was able to influence not just the community members and school authorities, but also my implementing partner and the government official. I think after this field visit, I have definitely made a significant impact on the future of the education system in Kenya – and made a start towards changing the face of education in Africa, thereby changing Africa itself.

More on the development video spoof 

An article at New York Times a year ago discussed the Radi-Aid video:  Black Man’s Burden.

The article closes with these comments on development videos that give a distorted perspective of the circumstances at the receiving end of aid:

Some call the genre “poverty porn,” others call it marketing. Whatever the name, it relies on giving a narrow impression of a person or place from a vast, diverse continent. Such “assistance” turns extraordinary hardship into an ordinary event and ignores the ordinary folks just getting by, or better.

The Radi-Aid stunt parries this trend effectively. Its creators remind viewers of the limited portrait they are painting. The site asks: “Imagine if every person in Africa saw the ‘Africa for Norway’ video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?”

2 thoughts on “3 satires of development

  1. Africa for Norway is also on Facebook, and they recently shared an article from the website “Africa is a Country.” http://africasacountry.com/9-signs-the-journalism-on-africa-youve-just-encountered-is-trash/ The article, entitled “Nine signs the journalism on Africa you’ve just encountered is trash,” provides examples that are as illustrative as Radi-Aid. Here’s a timely example:

    “If a political report devotes a substantial chunk of attention to tribal dancing, and “vibrant African music” — beware. You wouldn’t sample the nightclubs and “vibrant American music” in Adams Morgan when doing a piece on Democrats and Republicans arguing over the U.S. budget.”

    Obviously you’ve touched upon a huge concern for a number of nonprofits. Nonprofits can obviously do wonderful things when they receive donations, but there’s always the danger that the need for funding will drive someone to do something unethical or questionable – “the end justifies the means” type of thinking.

    1. Hi John:

      Just had a moment to read that post. Superb.

      Another good comment there is explaining there ought not be surprise that Africans who grew up in countries dominated by Portugal speech Portugese, French speakers abound in places France controlled, and Africans who grew up in lands dominated by England have a crisp British accent.

      Also, that before making a dumb comment about why a particular war is going on, might be worth spending a few minutes figuring out the context. Imagine someone asking why the Germans were so mad in 1939. With a little knowledge of that other little spat a few years earlier, the Versailles treaty, reparations, and hyperinflation, the questions could be a bit less ignorant.

      Here is the link again: http://africasacountry.com/9-signs-the-journalism-on-africa-youve-just-encountered-is-trash/

      Thanks for your comment.


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