About 5 years ago, I waded into the international development arena, commenting from time to time on the absurdity of some of the development projects that seemed to run rampant – both in their physical manifestation as projects in Africa and in the academic discourse that usually precedes and bookends said projects.
One thing that I have always noted is that the complexion of African development discourse had always skewed towards the White-Savior Industrial Complex. The Global North Intellectual Might pontificating on the problems of, and proposing solutions for the Global South from the comfort of an Aeron chair.
What the GNIM hasn’t yet accounted for is the rise of a completely different African – a vocal, educated and proud African. Chad McClymonds, one of the people behind this creative response titled I Already Have, Thank You, reached out to me in the midst of the Mindy Bugdor discourse to share this video.
It is not your typical Angry African response video, rather an attempt at setting a different expectation of what an African is. Below, McClymonds sheds some light on how he and his team came up with the concept of this raw, artsy but edgy response to the status quo.
The piece is simply a response to the standard development industry’s perspective (or preference) of what it means to “be African.”
Many of my colleagues, friends, and family based in the U.S. feel they are not seen “as African” because they may be well-educated, successful, or prefer to settle in urban environments. In other words: If you are born and raised in Ghana, got your PhD at Stanford University, appreciate photography, etc., then you are not the “authentic African.”
I think many would agree that Western-based development agencies, journalists, and humanitarians tend to concentrate on one image of Africa and Africans (rural, impoverished, disease-stricken, etc). Which is, of course, not the whole picture. But it is a more convenient picture for the development industry — it is used to justify their need.
Thus, in one way, much of the generosity and goodwill has actually come from Africa to the West — for putting up with their condescension. And for giving many of these development professionals self-worth.
Therefore the title, “I Already Have, Thank You,” is somewhat of a snarky, light-hearted “Forget you, I have already done well despite your nonsense.”
It’s just a simple little piece, reminding us that what it means “to be African” is wide open, complex and global.
I don’t think the piece goes far enough in exploring what is African identity. It skims at the margins of what it is to be an African. It is not a question that can really be answered in a short video. There is no one African image. There are as many shades of African as there are shades of green in the Pearl of Africa. The complexity of that identity complexion is not easily understood by the GNIM.