There have been some mixed reactions (controversy and praise) for Youtuber MrBeast building 100 wells in Africa. Some say this exposes the failures of African leaders who are not providing basic amenities for their citizens and why celebrate White saviors who perpetuate negative narratives about the continent by publicizing samaritan acts like this making it seem as if this is the only way Africa should be viewed. Others applaud his project saying it is impactful for the local communities who need them.
Popular American YouTuber MrBeast, also known as Jimmy Donaldson, has ignited a mixed response with his recent video showcasing the construction of 100 wells across Africa. The video, posted on Saturday, has garnered attention for both its philanthropic efforts and criticism of the Kenyan government.
Donaldson teased the project on Twitter the day before, expressing excitement about what he called “the greatest thing I’ve ever done.” However, the response has been mixed, with Kenyan activists and journalists asserting that the video highlights several governmental shortcomings and perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
In the 10-minute video, Donaldson revealed that the new wells aim to provide clean drinking water for approximately 500,000 people in Cameroon, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. The accompanying fundraiser supporting local water aid organizations had raised over $300,000 by Monday morning.
Apart from the construction of the wells, the video showcased Donaldson’s donations to Kenyan schools, including new furniture, soccer balls, computers, whiteboards, projectors, and the building of a bridge to connect a village with local schools and a hospital. Bikes were also donated to a village in Zimbabwe to facilitate children’s travel to school.
Well-known activist Boniface Mwangi compared Donaldson’s actions with the Kenyan government’s, criticizing the nation as a “shameful, horrible country…a begging nation governed by millionaires.” He raised questions about the government’s priorities, emphasizing the contrast between elected officials receiving substantial car grants while basic infrastructure needs remain unmet.
Freelance journalist Ferdinand Omondi applauded Donaldson’s efforts but expressed embarrassment that a YouTuber had to step in for tasks that taxes should have covered long ago.
Saran Kaba Jones, founder and CEO of FACE Africa, a non-profit organization focusing on water infrastructure and sanitation in sub-Saharan Africa, acknowledged Donaldson’s efforts in drawing attention to the need for clean water. However, she cautioned about the importance of sustainability, expressing concern about the lack of infrastructure for well maintenance and repair in certain areas.
While Donaldson’s video prompted discussions about government responsibilities, he anticipated backlash, acknowledging on social media that he expected to be “canceled” for his charitable efforts. Aspiring Kenyan politician Francis Gaitho criticized the video, arguing that it perpetuates the stereotype of Africa as dependent on handouts and philanthropic intervention.
Donaldson, the most popular individual creator on YouTube with over 200 million subscribers, has previously faced accusations of exploiting vulnerable people for views and revenue. Despite this, he remains committed to using his platform for philanthropy, emphasizing his goal to inspire his audience to do the same. Time magazine recognized him as one of the most influential people in 2023, acknowledging his significant impact in both the digital and philanthropic spheres.
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