First Bono, then Angelina Jolie, now Madonna. Africa is
officially a Hollywood fad.
While visiting projects she funds for AIDS orphans in the
southern African nation of Malawi this week, Madonna reportedly
adopted a 13-month-old Malawian boy.
With so many Hollywood actors, British rock stars, and American
talk show hosts beating a path to the continent - building schools,
visiting refugee children, raising awareness on AIDS and the
fighting in Darfur - it's a wonder the entertainment industry can
still function. Their splashy arrival in the serious world of
humanitarian aid has led some to question how much long-term good
they are actually doing. But most aid agencies welcome it, saying
that these A-listers draw more press attention (witness this story)
to the issues than noncelebrity aid workers ever could.
"We're talking about building constituencies of interest," says
Jeannie Zielinkski, country director for the international aid group
CARE, responsible for aid programs in South Africa, Lesotho and
Swaziland. "If I made a funding appeal myself, I would only be
singing to the choir, those who already care about Africa. How
effective is that? But you get a celebrity singing a totally
different song, reaching a much wider crowd, to me that is really
What stars have done for Africa
In the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur - where hundreds of
thousands of Sudanese have been killed, and millions of refugees
live in makeshift camps - actors George Clooney, Don Cheadle, and
Mia Farrow have visited, raised money, and spoken before Congress on
the need to stop what many see as a genocide of Sudanese minorities.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jessica Lange and Angelina
Jolie have visited burgeoning camps of people displaced by a decade
of civil war, where perhaps 4 million were killed.
British pop singer Bono, of the rock group U2, has set up a
Washington-based pressure group called DATA, which lobbies in the
halls of Congress and in European capitals for debt relief among
Africa's poorest nations. He's also launched high-end "ethical
clothing" labels that promise fair working conditions in African
And here in South Africa, in the township of Soweto near
Johannesburg, American talk show host Oprah Winfrey has built her
own school, hired her own teachers, and interviewed the hundreds of
girls who will attend.
"Jessica Lange jumped feet first in the DRC (the Democratic
Republic of Congo), and she was really moved by what she saw on the
ground, particularly with women, the sexual violence and the rape,"
says Sarah Crowe, spokeswoman for UNICEF's operations in South