How many times have we heard or used the phrase "first world problems"? On one hand, it highlights how petty some complaints are compared to the awful realities of others. But on the other hand, it perpetuates the image of an exotic other.
Since the world thinks of Africa as being full of problems, I'll recount some of mine in Ghana. I had to sacrifice time out of my not-so-busy schedule to take my dogs (an Alsatian and a Doberman) on walks ...only difference from a dog-owner in New York is that I didn't need to scoop their poop. Yay! The Wi-Fi at home acted up sometimes when I tried streaming YouTube videos. My mum drove me to see a doctor over a stuffy nose (yup, she was that kind of mum). Breast cancer was what took her life, not malaria or some other infectious disease.
I am in no way suggesting that there aren't problems more common in different regions of the world. I just wish we would all come to better appreciate our shared experiences. If we learn to focus on our similarities rather than our differences, we are less likely to relate to others with the savior mentality, using a paternalistic approach that is bound to be resisted. When we want to show love to Africa, especially for those not from the continent, let's investigate the ways in which the people want to be loved. We might be surprised at what we find.