Gothenburg Book Fair

WCC progamme director for Public Witness and Diakonia Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata (left) was part of a panel reviewing and reflecting on the book "White saviourism in International Development,” by Themrise Khan et al, at the 2023 Gotenburg Book Fair.


As part of a question-and-answer” session, Mtata reflected on how the racial hierarchy developed from slave trade has a negative impact on people today.

"The desire to saveAfrica while supporting exploitative capitalist projects has led some governments to replace development aid with business interests,” noted Mtata. Such a model is meant to give western businesses easy access to African markets without taking into serious consideration how such businesses exploit, expropriate, and abuse the poor communities and the environment.”

Mtata further noted that, since the killing of George Floyd, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and other similar protests have highlighted the intersection of systemic racism and a neo-liberal capitalist economy which is not committed to justice.

The current instability in Africa can be traced to the legacy of colonialism and white supremacy coupled with complicity of militarized local elites,” he said.

The panel unpacked the concept of white saviourism, which Mtata described as the intersection of race and capitalism.”

Denial of Black agency is part of this intersection, he added. White saviourism is comprised of individual virtue versus systemic justice—the focus on the altruism of white individuals without addressing the systemic injustices that cause poverty,” he said. We must not move Western citizens to be more generous—they must work for justice. Africa and the developing world need just economic relationships—not charity.”

The assumption that Jesus was white is a wrong starting point, said Mtata. Can the west upgrade the correct version of Jesus?” he asked. The struggle for holistic and inclusive economic development must be fought at the level of Ideas, practices, and structures.”

Church of Sweden news release on the Gothenburg Book Fair 2023