Africa turns the tables on Europeans and sends radiators to Norway.

When a group of African’s, shocked by how cold Norwegian’s were, launched Radi-Aid (Africa for Norway) they had little idea how viral it would go. Over a million YouTube hits, over 12,000 Facebook Likes and loads of publicity. Only thing is, it’s a spoof that set out to make a social point.

We can all relate to those charity ads that shows us poverty in the Third World. A poor starving child, with only dirty water to drink, not enough to eat, no shelter… “please spare us a few quid and donate just £2 a month to help…”. The cause is valid, the need is genuine but is that really the only viewpoint we have of Africa, millions starving? For many it is.

Some organisations are now critical of charities that portray a stereotype images to milk Westerners of money, while misrepresenting Africa. Charities, desperate to get funds, ignore the truth, thriving economies (well it hardly sells donations), many people living a normal live just like us in the West.  Many Africans are not happy with this image.

Only recently there has been a big debate about our national budget for charitable giving to India – critics have pointed out it’s one of the fastest growing economies in the world, one of the biggest investors in the UK and one that’s about to spend millions on a rocket to launch a satellite.

So a group in Norway asked a simple question, “If Africans came to Norway, how would they see it?” Cold, people freezing, “Frostbite kills too,” quotes the man behind Radi-Aid, “It’s as bad as poverty”, “We need to collect our radiators, ship them over there and spread some warmth, spread some light and spread some smiles.”

A spoof video and song, packed full of clichéd lyrics that echo the patronising (and even offensive) lyrics you find in so many aid songs written by white middle class rich kids who think they can save humanity through a pop song.

The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) are behind the spoof Band-Aid style video, complete with the excellent ‘We are the World’ style song. The video, which is professionally produced (it  was actually done on a tiny budget by Ikind Productions in Durban) went viral and has probably fooled many.

SAIH was established in 1961 as a part of the Norwegian students’ anti apartheid movement, it is a solidarity organisation of students and academics in Norway who focus on education in development cooperation, as well as North/South information and political advocacy in Norway.  They fund education-related projects in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

SAIH’s motto, “Education for Liberation” relates to their theories of pedagogy of liberation, in which participation creates an increased political consciousness as well as increased possibilities for each participant to find solutions to their own problems (their words).

Following a survey of 600 Norwegian youths, it reveled that they get their (often distorted) view of the world through online media (newspapers), followed by social media, then TV, followed by face to face in schools and printed papers.

It reminds me of a great t-shirt I saw in Camden Town mocking Twitter users, “Just because you know what’s going on, doesn’t mean you actually know anything.”

The Radi-Aid campaign was designed to highlight how the media portray stereotypes and how, in the eyes of African people, Norway is a bitterly cold country with people dying of cold and in need. If the media only conveyed that image, then that is what people would see.

As a newsreader on the BBC said, “Africa is often portrayed as a continent riddled with conflict, disease, conflict, corruption, poverty and brutal dictatorships… but that stereotypical negative image is one that a group of South African students, and an aid agency in Norway, are challenging by turning the tables.”

Radi-Aid is not only a brilliant spoof, but a brilliant example of creative communications (better than the John Lewis ad in my opinion, but I’m not a fan of pop advertising). It’s one of those things I wish I had done. I think it has probably raised debate globally and is now on the agenda of all philosophy students.

It proves that a great viral can deliver, but mainly because it was picked up by the BBC, the Guardian and many other media channels – yep, the very ones that have been giving us that distorted keyhole view of Africa for years!


Voice over to video:

“A lot of people aren’t aware of what’s going on there right now.

It’s just as bad as poverty.

Sunlight puts smiles on peoples face.

People don’t ignore staving people.

So why should we ignore cold people?

Frostbite kills too.”

Song lyrics:


In Norway kids are freezing.

It’s time for us to care.

There’s heat enough for Norway.

If Africans would share.

Yet Africans keep thinking, we can contribute.

The warmth we’ve got, we’d like to share, but we can distribute.


Now the tables have turned.

Now It’s Africa for Norway.

And there’s no way.

We can close our eyes.

We see that they freeze.

As African’s concerned.

Lets send our heaters all the way.

Radi-aid to Norway.


Watch the video at: