It might very well be snowing in Morocco, to be fair, Bob…

As Christmas carols start to bellow through my office, I have decided to republish this blog I wrote 4 years ago about my most reviled (and ludicrous) festive tune, Do They Know It’s Christmas? Which, as an African, makes me so angry I have fantasies about bludgeoning Bono to death (although in fairness that would probably happen without the song). Enjoy:

Those who have been reading this blog for a while may remember some conversations I had with a very special character we nicknamed Anonymous Boy. He was the one who thought Africa was one country and it was all a desert. In case you don’t remember, you can read about it here.

For a long time I was baffled by where he got this perception, since although his spelling, grammar and logic was somewhat flawed, he didn’t seem to be completely mentally deficient or incapable of grasping basic concepts. But now… courtesy of a twitter conversation with Tash, I think I’ve figured out who to blame… Bob Geldoff.

Have any of you ever listened closely to the lyrics of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

It’s Christmastime
There’s no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime

But say a prayer

Pray for the other ones
At Christmastime it’s hard, but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window
And it’s a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging
chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you

And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life
(Oooh) Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?

(Here’s to you) raise a glass for everyone
(Here’s to them) underneath that burning sun
Do they know it’s Christmastime at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again
Feed the world
Let them know it’s Christmastime again

(Bob Geldof & Midge Ure)

Let’s have a little look at some blinding issues with these lyrics:

There won’t be any snow in Africa this Christmastime: surely that’s more about climate than poverty. I can’t remember anyone ever saying, god I wish we had more money so it would snow?? Anyway, there are ski resorts in Morocco, where it may very well snow at Christmas so there. It also won’t be snowing in London, Sydney or Southern California… maybe it’s time to expand some of the aid to these snow-impoverished regions too.

Where nothing ever grows: The UK imports 14% of all it’s fruit from African nations including South Africa, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Egypt… wrong again Bob.

No rain nor rivers flow: Clearly he’s missed out on the glory of a Highveld thunder storm… there are also upwards of 60 rivers in Africa, including the NILE, which happens to be the longest river in the world and flows through Egypt, Ethiopia, Burundi and Sudan.

Do they know it’s Christmastime at all: I’m going to go with probably not and they’re unlikely to care since 45% of the continent is Muslim and couldn’t give a toss about your Christian holiday.

I’m sure Sir Bob’s heart was in the right place but his facts were severely lacking and I can’t help but wonder how much good this kind of bizarre imagining of Africa does. It’s almost as bad as this horrendous Cadbury’s advert that depicts Africans as grinning childlike buffoons.

How is this supposed to break down this “us” and “them” perception between the developed and the developing world?


  1. SUch a weird song. “There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas” is one of my favorite lyrics ever because of how odd it is. There’s probably not going to be snow in Miami either, what’s your point?

    1. Abbi

      Most of the song has literally no point. It’s just a bizarre serious of nonsensical statements strung together.

  2. I can’t say whether I’ve ever heard the song, but when I read the lyrics I took them symbolically, not as fact. What I got out of the lyrics was for those of us reveling in festivities and love and “christmastime” fun to not forget about those who are suffering and hungry. To share our blessings with others not as fortunate. (not really so much about Christmas, but using that as an image to depict all the blessings in life). His choice of using Africa is a poor one, but in the US we are bombarded with fundraising campaigns showing images of children from Africa who are hungry and naked. Which, no doubt, lead some people to have in inaccurate view of “Africa”. Sadly, some Americans have no idea what other countries are like. But I think that advertising might have a big part to blame for the misunderstandings.

    Anyways, it’s just how I viewed the point of the song but I agree, it’s not good if it leads others to misunderstand other countries and cultures.

    1. Abbi

      I can understand the sentiment but it feels very lazy and having grown up in Africa it’s hard not to become angry at such a bizarre representation of your home. I live in the UK now and we have a similar bombardment of advertising that I definitely agree that it exacerbates the kind of weird image people have of the developing world – the guy I talk about in the post I have linked to. I think there is real harm in representing an entire continent as a big black aid sucking hole.

  3. Terrible song, definitely. And I get you. As a Mexican, I also battle all the time with false perceptions of what my country is supposed to be. And don’t get me started on the people that think that everything below the U.S. is Mexico.

    1. Abbi

      I think a lot of countries get represented really weirdly in the media and because so many people don’t travel or have contact with anyone from other countries they end up with such odd perceptions.

  4. Lol! Great post. Stupid song. 🙂

    1. Abbi

      Every year it throws me into an irrational rage. The lyrics are so ridiculous!

  5. Brilliant! I hate Geldof and Bono with a vengeance, and that song makes my skin crawl. Here’s what I think of them.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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