Africa for Norway

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The fact that global powers have traditionally controlled the tools of global media has meant that the world has been inundated with certain messages that seem innocuous and normal, at least for some, due to their familiarity.  The idea that Westerners should “help” Africans is one of those ideas.  The “Norway for Africa” video from the 1985 Live Aid Concert was a particularly striking example of this assumption.  The 2012 video “Africa for Norway” upends this paradigm through satire; Africans should send their unwanted radiators to poor Norwegians, suffering through an extra bitter winter. 

The fact that digital media has made media production accessible to a wide set of the world’s population means that examples of “contra-flow” (Thussu 2009) may become more and more common, albeit with a limited audience.  These limits, however, can be stretched or broken if a piece of media strikes a nerve and becomes particularly “spreadable” (Jenkins 2013).  “Africa for Norway” has surpassed 2.5 million views on YouTube, which seems to suggest it did strike a nerve.  

Questions this video provoke for me include:

  1. Was there a campaign to spread this video after its production?  If so, who was the target audience?  Here’s a blog post that touches on these questions.
  2. What was the logic behind the producers and funders’ support for this project?  (The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund, Operation Day’s Work, with funding from The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad) and The Norwegian Children and Youth Council (LNU)).  Here’s their brief answer.
  3. Was this campaign effective in changing Western attitudes about Africa?  Why or why not?  What are the implications for nation branding?  In other words, what does this example suggest in terms of whether or not a blunt, comedic response to stereotypes is an effective method of changing attitudes?  These are questions for further research and discussion.

Jenkins, H., Ford, S., & Green, J. (2013). Spreadable Media, Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. NYU Press.

Thussu, D. (2009) “Mapping Media Flow and Contra-Flow” in International Communications: A Reader (Ed. by Thussu, D.). Routledge.

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2 thoughts on “Africa for Norway

  1. I loved the Africa for Norway video. I thought it was hilarious and on point. I completely agree that government media sources are traditionally the ones controlling media, and thus controlling the way certain regions and communities view other regions and communities around the world.

    Although there is an extensive amount of poverty in Africa, it is ineffectual to approach that problem with a demeaning video that strengthens stereotypes rather than understanding.

    As far as the third question the author bring up, I believe the Africa for Norway video did change Western attitudes about Africa to some extent – especially individuals that had never been exposed to the Africa that doesn’t have a Sarah McClachlan soundtrack playing in the background. The video showed Westerners that many Africans, 1- have a sense of humor, and 2- don’t appreciate the way the world fears and pities them. It was funny, but it was also an earnest effort to improve cultural empathy. In that regard, I believe the Africa for Norway video was a huge success.

    Like

  2. This is a great example of the Western mentality that everyone else needs help and wants to be like them. It’s a funny take on a serious issue, I guess. It’s ability to go viral shows that, as you point out, it struck a nerve and got people talking, which seems like a good first step at the very least.

    Like

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