The Uncertain Business of Doing Good
Outsiders in Africa
The relationship between Westerners and Africa has long been conflicted and complicated. Frequently exploitative, it is also just as often propelled by an almost irresistible urge to ‘do good’. The persistence of this impulse is intriguing. From Doctor Livingstone 150 years ago to the rock star Bono today, outsiders have championed foreign intervention in Africa in political, social, economic, and health care reforms. But underlying all these good intentions, isn’t there a hierarchical belief that we, as outsiders, somehow know what’s best for Africa?
As a journalist and documentary filmmaker, Larry Krotz follows the projects of Canadian, American, British and European scientists, NGOs, lawyers, and peacekeepers, all motivated in some manner by the desire to ‘do good’ in Africa. He focuses specifically on people involved in trying to end the Angolan civil war, AIDS research in Kenya, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the UNIM circumcision research project in Kenya. Along with telling their stories, he examines the ethical and social implications of humanitarian and research projects in Africa, raising many difficult, yet critically important, questions. How have we come to think the way we do about Africa and its people? What has motivated us to action, for good or ill? And, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, is there a choice between doing nothing and doing the well-intended, but, perhaps, wrong thing?
“Krotz understands that modern aid workers are people who would not explicitly condescend to their developing world counterparts, whom they often call partners. But their impact, he argues, can be condescending nonetheless. … While the book, at once reportage and a kind of meditation, is larger in scope than this, it is puctuated by numerous vignettes that vividly illustrate the unintentional clashes between first and third worlds. ”- Ron Stang