If there is one media narrative about Africa that refuses to be squashed, it’s the White-Savior-in-Africa bug. Despite the fact that some of the fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa, and that Africans on the continent and in the diaspora are perfectly capable of telling their own stories and transforming their own societies, the white savior framework lives, like some prehistoric literary insect that has managed to survive the ages without having to evolve. And just when you think the world has made at least some progress in beginning to exterminate this trend, a big, fat, multi-legged #WhiteSaviorInAfricaStory crawls into the mediasphere.
Louise Linton, an actress and producer, just may have written the defining work of the White-Savior-in-Africa genre for the digital age. Linton’s piece, “How My Dream Gap Year in Africa Turned Into a Nightmare,” published in the Telegraph, follows the venerable tradition of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” — Africa seen through the lens of white or foreign central characters. This tradition includes recent films such as “Machine Gun Preacher” and ill-advised public relations campaigns such as #Kony2012, which position Western “awareness” as the solution to African warlords, and basically everything Nicholas Kristof writes about war-torn countries.