Dayo Olopade, author of the new book “The Bright Continent,” was recently on a Vice podcast discussing her new book and it’s subject matter. “Stop Sending Your T-Shirts To Africa” was the main theme of the discussion, in which she explains how donating shirts hurts local textile industries and stunts economic growth in these African nations.
It is only a small example that shows one of the many issues on how the world approaches this continent. Olopade goes on further to address the way the map of the continent is drawn for political purposes by the squabbling European countries so many years ago, has been a huge factor in the lack of innovation and constant warfare certain spots of the continent have been in entangled in for years.
Instead, Olopade offers that we not think of Africa as we see it on the map but as a wide cultural patchwork of different people, languages and beliefs. This viewpoint may help people better understand the reason for the incessant warring. She then goes from this point to stress that all this stems from foreign intervention and that for the continent and its many groups and nations to prosper, they must be not only respected but given the time and chance to get on their own feet.
So referring back to sending t-shirts, the point is not to help or send aid, but it is to know the difference between carrying and helping, somewhat like the old saying “Give a man a fish, he eats for day. Teach him how to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Where nations and organizations should not shove money, clothing and medicine at these countries, but should open up trade with them where Africa is then pushed to use the tools it has to create it’s own infrastructure and specialization that it can actually compete in foreign markets.
The Bright Continent goes in to highlight examples of these economic and structural innovations occurring in Africa, and if people would notice and interact with these models, it would a great step toward Africa’s no longer suffering.
– Matthew Price
Sources: Vice, The Bright Continent