Opinion: Why Celebrity Activism Doesn’t Work In Africa

Opinion: Why Celebrity Activism Doesn’t Work In Africa

From The Conversation

Celebrity activism and support for African humanitarian causes – such as the Enough Project, Akon’s Lighting Africa and Kony 2012 – has become mainstream. But what are the consequences, and is this something we necessarily want to promote?

Celebrity activism is nothing new. At the turn of the 20th century, prominent British journalist, author and politician Edmund Dene Morel, and Anglo-Irish diplomat and human rights activist Roger Casementsuccessfully challenged King Leopold’s violent and autocratic rule of the Congo Free State. They did so with the help of notable friends: Arthur Conan DoyleWilliam Cadbury and Joseph Conrad.

In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst consumed herself with lobbying in favour of a fascist-free, and later independent, Ethiopia. A few decades later Bob Geldof and Band Aid raised US$ 150 million for the victims of famine in Ethiopia.

Although some of the most famous campaigns sought to provide a palliative solution to one-off disasters such as famine or Ebola, most modern-day celebrities are not content with fundraising or short-lived remedial goals.

They have chosen to champion socioeconomic causes that have more expansive and lasting pretensions. The latest generation of American celebrity activists has most commonly knocked at the doors of Congress, demanding changes in US policy towards their cause célèbre.

Celebrity activism has grown more powerful in the past decades. The spread of internet and communications technologies has broken down the oligopoly on news, opening many new stages for celebrities and their causes.

Read more at The Conversation