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From: Witness

Africa Rising

The extraordinary story of how a large rural area of Ethiopia is taking itself out of poverty.

The director with children from the Sodo region [Photo: Jamie Doran]

Directed by multi-award winning director Jamie Doran

Remember Band Aid, Live Aid and developed countries’ determination to ‘Feed the World’? Well, we failed. There are more Africans living in extreme poverty today than ever before.

Africa Rising goes right inside the extraordinary story of how a large rural area of Ethiopia is taking itself out of poverty. With a cast of thousands, the film reveals a new dawn of Africans solving Africa’s needs themselves.

“The general perception of Ethiopia, gained through grim television pictures and the odd article in some glossy magazine whose editor has discovered a social conscience for about 20 seconds, is of famine-stricken, dried-up, dust-covered desperation. This was my first visit to the country and, frankly, I had roughly the same perception before my arrival. What I discovered opened my eyes up not just to how much needs to be done, but how it is being done by Africans themselves.

If you drive around Ethiopia, the real tragedy of well-intended yet misguided aid efforts is there for everyone to see. Abandoned health centres, recently-built schools collapsing through neglect, soil dried to dust in areas of plentiful rainwater. It doesn’t seem to make sense; that is until you realise that most of these aid-backed projects were attempted in isolation: one NGO here, another there, thinking they know best what is needed now, rather than looking to the long-term.”

Click here to read more of Africa Rising director Jamie Doran’s account of his first trip to Ethiopia

For the real scandal of Ethiopia is that, like much of the rest of Africa, it is a potentially rich country with enormous resources. But what has not been recognised, until now, is that the solution to its dilemma lies in the hands of its own people.

This controversial, colourful and frequently uplifting documentary highlights the failure of Western policies towards Africa, asking whether it is time to reconsider the role of Western aid workers on the continent.

Take a look around Ethiopia: in many regions schools lie abandoned; in others you find derelict hospitals; all around are vast areas of dry, barren land where the soil has been washed away.

Misguided Western governments and aid agencies thought they knew the answer – billions upon billions of dollars, euros and yen committed with virtually no long-lasting results and much of the money ending up in the wage packets of foreign aid workers, in bank accounts far from Africa.

But it did not need to be this way; with costs at just a fraction of the norm, the answer was astonishingly simple. Twenty men and women are taught new skills such as dam building, bricklaying, soil rotation, micro-banking or livestock rearing. The deal is that each of them has to pass their new-found knowledge on to 20 more people – their ‘followers’. Those ‘followers’ then pass it on to 20 more and so on. Within a short period, tens of thousands are now growing cash crops for the first time, digging irrigation systems and even building their own hospitals and schools.

Shot on a grand scale across great swathes of land, this film records a success story in one of the most deprived regions of the world.


Africa Rising can be seen from Wednesday, August 10, at the following times GMT: Wednesday: 2000; Thursday: 1200; Friday: 0100; Saturday: 0600; Sunday: 2000; Monday: 1200; Tuesday: 0100; Wednesday: 0600.

Click here for more on Witness.