Tuesday, June 18

Under the scorching Kenyan sky, a nerdy white visitor drilled wells whilst thrilled villagers danced joyfully. For Africa’s elite, the arrival of a beaming white saviour is a public relations disaster.

Yet this is a familiar script for the hardened majority. We have seen worse done by our leaders – women and men with bottomless greed but zero expertise. It’s no secret they craftily enter politics with only two skills: oratory and manipulation. It’s not to lift the nation but to raise their personal net worth since they lack business savvy beyond looting public funds.

On 6 November 2023, 25-year-old YouTuber-turned philanthropist Jimmy from North Carolina, professionally known as Mr Beast, emerged from the African bush after erecting 100 wells. He showed his journey across five African countries: Cameroon, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. He claimed he funded and helped construct 100 modern wells to provide clean drinking water for up to 500,000 people.

The math seemed solid. 100 wells were erected, 500,000 people were aided, $300,000 was generated, and 110 million YouTube views were amassed. On paper, Mr Beast’s philanthropic safari was a new media success. But whilst Western fans clicked and cheered him on, across Africa, doubts simmered.

No sooner had the philanthropic YouTuber taken a bow than critics emerged accusing “white saviorism.” Their cries alleged he had portrayed Africa as helpless, needing rescue by a noble white outsider. The irony. Others questioned the sustainability and maintenance of his grand project.

Africa looks like a battered lion despite sunny forecasts of ascendance peddled by global institutions like the World Bank. I wish I could say it another way – Africa is a mess! Conflict, instability, poverty and inequality are running riot across. Our youth are dying in the Mediterranean, our girls’ kidneys are harvested in the Middle East and ailing Europe has made it easy for our best brains to escape.

Even decades after colonialism, its legacy persists across Africa. In West Africa, 14 nations remain under France’s neo-imperial pressure. From Tripoli to Johannesburg, many leaders care little about serving their people. Their hunger is for yachts and yearly trips to Wimbledon, not development.

Post-colonial graft has left governments siphoning aid dollars into foreign bank accounts while public utilities crumble. The UN estimates that $50 billion is drained from Africa through corruption yearly.

Why should a 25-year-old American provide water to 500k Africans? Tell me why? Convince me. Jimmy raised $300,000 from his followers, around a mere 0.0006% of the wealth stolen annually by our Narcoqueens and Godfathers, aka politicians. The sorest truth exposed is not Africa’s poverty but our leaders’ greed. Politicians treat nations as personal ATMs to fund opulent lifestyles. Their criminally low IQs have left citizens lacking basics like water and power that even mediocre governments provide.

The wells spotlight the indecency. Our leaders pursue indulgence. The people degraded are not the poor but the powerful who fail us. After endless aid, investment and oversight, basic needs still go unmet.

So, the calls of indignity ring hollow; true indignity is expecting citizens to suffer daily. Meanwhile, officials grow opulent. In spotlighting this imbalance, Mr Beast’s gesture did not degrade the people but exposed the real decadency of abysmal leadership.

Progress begins not by scolding those who do good, But first, leaders must see their nations as more than personal gold mines. Africa expects no less.

Hey, Mr Beast, your heroic, healthy act could get you a standing ovation in Ghana.

The wells may provide water, but only accountable leadership can quench Africa’s long-throbbing thirst for justice and equality.

What do you think?

  1. Do you think the “white saviour” critique of Mr Beast’s wells project was fair or overblown? Why?
  2. How can African citizens hold their leaders more accountable for serving the people versus self-enrichment?
  3. Are there any African nations you see as positive models for political leadership and low corruption?
  4. What creative solutions can help stem the exodus of African youth and talent abroad? How can potential be better nurtured at home?
  5. Should foreign aid to African nations come with tighter oversight and transparency requirements? What policy changes would help?
  6. How can the legacy of colonialism that persists in parts of Africa finally be overturned?
  7. What stories of political integrity and public service in Africa inspire you? Share examples.
  8. How can satire and creative expression catalyze political change and spur citizen engagement/debate?

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