Do they know it’s Christmas?

24 December 2012 | ResolutionPossible

1984: A group of musicians led by Bob Geldof form Band Aid to produce a Christmas single to raise money for anti-poverty campaigns in Ethiopia. The lyrics tell a story of ‘a world of dread and fear’ and lament the lack of a white Christmas in Africa. The message is clear and simple: we in the West are privileged and lucky; Africans are sad and suffering and need our help.

2004: ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ gets a revamp with Band Aid 20, featuring Bono and other popular singers. The lyrics and message are the same (with an added rap about giving ‘help to the helpless’). Africa still needs our help and this time we need to pour our money and energy into Darfur, Sudan.

2012: African musicians come together in solidarity for Norwegians facing the cold winter, encouraging Africans to donate radiators because ‘there’s heat enough for Norway if Africans would share’. It shares a similar format to the two versions of Band Aid, full of close-up shots of the musicians and interspersed with clips showing Norwegians struggling in the snow.


This tongue-in-cheek production is the front of a campaign challenging both the traditional concept of charity and the perception of Africa as a nation full of victims. There are undoubtedly many problems faced by people throughout Africa, but there is also innovation and enterprise. The group behind Radi-Aid is asking us to open our minds about Africa and question western involvement in the continent. They have also just released their special Christmas message.

What do you think? Have attempts to help been beneficial or a patronising hindrance? Are we seeing a shift in the way the western world views the African continent? Does respecting the agency of Africans mean westerners shouldn’t get involved at all?

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