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What people in African countries think of anti-poverty ads

NGO CAMPAIGNS: Respondents to a University of East Anglia and Radi-Aid survey said they felt adverts offered an accurate representation of the situation in Africa

PEOPLE IN African countries that receive aid want charities to ensure that upholding the dignity and respect of those featured in their advertising campaigns is paramount, a new report has revealed.

Members of the public from six sub-Saharan African countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and South Africa – participated in the research conducted by the University of East Anglia and Radi-Aid, a project from the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH).

Radi-Aid aims to challenge perceptions around issues of poverty and development, and breakdown negative stereotypes.

Among the reports key findings, based on the responses from the 74 participants, there is a need for aid communication to show more diversity in terms of age and race and it is important that the respect and dignity of those portrayed in campaigns is maintained.

Respondents also acknowledged that aid communication is complex and that there is not one single solution. The majority of the participants said they believed the images in the adverts shown as part of the study – including those from Unicef, Save the Children and War Child – offered an accurate representation of the situation in Africa.

David Girling, the report’s lead author, said: “This research is important as it gives people in aid receiving countries the opportunity to voice their opinions on the type of imagery used to depict their continent. Instead of stigmatising poverty and focusing on problems, we hope that aid organisations will respond by showing the positive outcomes of development programmes too.”

Beathe Øgård, president of SAIH, said: “Why not try to create a sense of hope or provide inspiration to the viewer, instead of primarily provoking feelings of despair? The participants in this study are quite adamant about their wish for more diverse portrayals of their continent.

“Several of the findings support issues Radi-Aid has been highlighting through its campaign since 2012 – that is, the typical image INGOs show of Africa is often a demeaning and dehumanising one, and the humans portrayed are more than what these images offer. Aid communication still needs to move away from presenting the single story.”

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