Haiti’s African lifeline

For Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal’s octogenarian president and a committed pan-Africanist, simply offering aid to Haiti’s earthquake victims was not enough. Any Haitian that wanted to “return to their roots”, he said, would be “repatriated” to Senegal for free and given a plot of land.

Wade’s pledge is more of a publicity stunt than a plan, but other African leaders have made more realistic promises. So far a dozen governments across the continent have pledged aid to Haiti, from cash-strapped Liberia, which has offered a gift of $50,000 to the newly oil-rich Ghana, which has pledged $3m.

The generosity of governments has been matched by its citizens. The Africa for Haiti campaign, launched by Nelson Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, in Johannesburg on Friday, will seek to raise money from ordinary Africans over the next six months. Churches, civil society groups and businesses have already pledged support for the initiative that is also backed by some of the continent’s leading media figures such as Mail and Guardian owner, Trevor Ncube. “We need to show the world that yes, we might not be as rich as some of us, but we do have the heart,” says Ncube.

While the pledges of aid have showcased Africa’s heart it is a group of computer programmers and technological innovators who have played a far more important role thanks to a website called Ushahidi.

From my latest column in Monocle. The rest is here

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