• 11.21.12

“Africa For Norway” Sends Up Strife-Soaked Charity Commercials

A video by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Fund satirizes the image of Africa put forth by a lifetime’s worth of “We Are the World”s.

What do you think of when you think about Africa? A very few of you may have traveled there for reasons cultural or animal. For some, your natural sense of curiosity has at least compelled you to stumble upon certain FIFA rankings and possibly Zef music. For a disappointing majority of Western people, however, all knowledge about Africa starts and ends with the commercials produced by charities working to raise money for various African causes–even as the continent’s infrastructure improves and the economy grows. Now, a group from Norway is working to challenge this perception gap, or at least draw attention to it.


Africa for Norway is a new video created by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Fund to parody the reductionist image of Africa proffered by a lifetime’s worth of “We Are the World”s. The video encourages Africans to collect radiators together so that they might “spread the warmth” over to poor Norway, via a fictional program called Radi-Aid. Having lived their entire lives in a sunny, tropical climate, Africans’ hearts go out to the Norwegians in the time of their freezing plight.

Did I mention there’s also a song, complete with typical recording studio scenes and swaying? “Now the tables have turned,” goes the chorus, implying that it’s Africa’s turn to lend a hand elsewhere. This line has another agenda altogether, though. It’s a reference to Africa taking the opportunity to do to another country what has long been done to it–portray only the most damning footage of the environment available, for maximum pity. Indeed, in the video, Norway is depicted as being plagued by the unmanagable ravages of permanent winter. As the Africa For Norway site explains, “The truth is that there are many positive developments in African countries, and we want these to become known. We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa’s development.”

Watching Africa for Norway may not bring about any real change in either area, nor any heat to Norway, but perhaps it will change some people’s perception.

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.