Batman Saves the Congo

Batman Saves the Congo is a book by Alexandra Cosima Budabin and Lisa Ann Richey Can which questions the influence of celebrities on the development field and whether they can promote change for the good or just act as mouthpieces for major corps:

In 2010, Ben Affleck, known for his performance as Batman, launched the Eastern Congo Initiative, designed to bring a new approach to the region’s development. This event is central to Batman Saves the Congo. Affleck’s organization received special access, diversified funding, and significant support from elites in the political, philanthropic, development, and humanitarian spheres. This fact sets it apart from other development programs. Affleck used his influence to build partnerships with others both in and outside of the development field, occupying a bipartisan political realm that is neither charity nor aid but “good business.” Highly visible celebrity humanitarians like Affleck operate in the public domain but do not engage meaningfully with the public, argue Alexandra Cosima Budabin and Lisa Ann Richey. Rather, they are an unruly group of new players in development whose involvement furthers the interests of big business.

I think these kinds of questions are really important at the moment, with the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in a variety of other African countries like South Africa (where Google and PepsiCo have invested nearly $2bn in the last few years), Kenya (where Microsoft and G42 announced a $1 billion comprehensive digital ecosystem initiative), Nigeria, and Egypt.

The Eastern Congo Initiative was launched in 2010 and is still going, with the following members:

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