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28th Oct 2020

Comic Relief says it has stopped sending celebrities to poor African countries

Alex Roberts

Critics say it played into the ‘white saviour’ stereotype

Comic Relief has said it has stopped sending high-profile celebrities to African countries because it perpetuates the ‘white saviour’ stereotype.

In the past, famous faces such as Ed Sheeran, Chris Moyles and members of Girls Aloud have visited African countries with Comic Relief. They’ve starred in promotional films to encourage people to donate to charity, but it now seems this will no longer occur.

Best known for its national Red Nose Day campaign, Comic Relief says it will no longer show African nations through the lens of extreme poverty and seriously ill children.

Rather, the anti-poverty charity will work to promote positive stories of everyday life in African nations, using content captured by local videographers, photographers and filmmakers.

Comic Relief has also said it will focus on the work the charity has already done to tackle poverty and establish infrastructure in African nations – as opposed to playing on the extreme cases of hunger and poverty that already exist.

As one of the UK’s most notable charities, Comic Relief have engaged in fundraising efforts for decades. However, their approach has started to attract criticism over the last few years.

In particular, critics have questioned the concept of sending famous white celebrities to impoverished areas of Africa to encourage public donations.

Labour MP David Lammy criticised BBC Three presenter Stacey Dooley when she visited Uganda as part of a fundraising campaign.

Last year, Lammy reacted angrily to pictures of Dooley holding a young boy on a Comic Relief trip to Uganda. He said the trope of eliciting an emotional reaction from a white British celebrity as a means of encouraging donation, was perpetuating ‘tired and unhelpful stereotypes’.

Lammy, who is of Guyanese descent, said that he appreciated the good intentions of Comic Relief’s fundraising campaigns, but that “The world does not need any more white saviours.”