Band Aid 30, when music fights Ebola! All good and deserving but does Africa still need this kind of charity?

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I recently watched on TV that the biggest music stars are once again banding together to raise money; this time to fight ebola. Under the banner of Band Aid 30 (, renown musicians recorded a terrific song, “Do They Know It's Christmas” that have already sold 206.000 copies over the world. All the profits will be going to initiatives aimed at stopping the ebola outbreak

 I do remember, though when I was quite small, I think it was 1985 the “We are The World” song that was the first initiative bringing together the biggest rock stars to fight famine in Ethiopia.

Almost 30 years later, famine in Ethiopia is history. The country managed to develop itself thanks to an authoritarian top down “Chinese” way of development. Still many people are poor, human rights are repressed, especially political rights but Ethiopia is on the path of development. No doubt about it.

Yet despite the so called Africa renaissance, a marketing slogan that truly reflects deep improvements on the continent, we have the rock stars again together to raise money for Africa.

The ebola outbreak is surely not helping the rebranding process of Africa still too often seen as the miserable continent, a land with no hopes. This is far from true despite the thousands of people who died due to ebola. Things are changing for good in Africa.

Now we have a bunch of music stars who want to launch a new song for charity. Undoubtedly these super rich musicians are moved by the right cause and motive. There is nothing wrong in bringing the best voices together for a good reason.

At the same time I have two issues here. First that these persons, the rock stars are part of super capitalism system that contributes to create more inequality all around the world. Second because Africa had always been associated with poverty and therefore has always been the preferred destination of global charity, I am wondering if such charity drives are really what Africa needs.

First of all, rock stars and inequality. Musicians like sports champions are the key symbols of a turbo capitalist society where marketing and sales are “kings”. At the end they are the “small fishes” of an entire system dominated by multinationals. Do not get me wrong: I am not anti-capitalist , I believe in the market and in its power to improve lives of millions of people. At the same time, you do not need to be an anarchist or Marxist to agree that the market alone cannot solve all the problems of this world. Regulations are imperative. Social protection mechanisms are essential. Still we accept a system that rewards excessively well too few people. Not that we should stop encouraging skills, abilities and hard work.

After all Le Bron James, Ronaldo and Bono, the leader of U2 and an anti poverty champion are what they are not because of marketing but because of their supreme skills in their respective fields. Capitalism has been using them to project the power of brands. Also here there is nothing wrong but sometimes I find it hard to justify people who earn disproportionately. You remember when a few years ago, at the peak of the financial crisis, everybody was talking about capping the salaries of Wall Street’s CEOs. To me it makes sense that a CEO of a multinational company deserves high perks and salaries but we should set a limit to decency. Back to the rock stars. Most of them are good folks, they are very progressive and genuinely involved in so many just causes. Now they will record a new song and probably raise millions of dollars for a just cause. Bono has been one of the greatest campaigners against poverty. The same for Angelie Jolie and George Clooney. They are all good guys, they use their brand powers that made them ultra rich to do some good. Is the tradeoff worth it?

On the one hand, they thrive by the rules of wild capitalism, on the other hand they do try their best to offset their  financial might. Surely they do not do it just because of guilt. Here we are talking about the greatest artists and what they did so far is simply well deserved.  Yet there is an issue here about excesses of certain types of industries that thrive and generate huge profits due to image and advertisement.

In terms of the second point I wish some of these rock stars will also do their best as Africa’s brand ambassadors, projecting the new continent that is truly rising. Despite the challenges Africa is changing and surely won’t need any more mega charity events nor special fund raising initiatives.

At the same time African leaders need to ensure that calamities like ebola won’t happen anymore, creating better health and education systems for their own citizens. Jobs creation will  also be imperative as decent health and education is not enough  but rather being counterproductive in the long run: like the revolutions in  Arab countries with millions of educated but frustrated and out of jobs young people, the same could happen in Africa.

Moreover we need a new narrative that can help strengthen the image of a continent that is still at the dawn of its development.

Who knows, given the current decline of the west,  maybe in 20 years time African singers will record a song to raise money for Europe.

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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