Elliot Nash, News.com.au, November 9, 2023
The world of online philanthropy is no stranger to controversy, and it seems that YouTuber MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, has fallen victim to the phenomenon of being “cancelled”.
Donaldson initiated an ambitious project to fund the construction of 100 wells across Africa to provide clean drinking water to an estimated 500,000 people across several African communities like Cameroon, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
Alongside this initiative, an associated fundraiser has successfully generated over $300,000 to aid local water assistance organisations.
While such a philanthropic endeavour might seem commendable, it unexpectedly ignited a storm of backlash and criticism, particularly from Kenyan activists and journalists.
They raised concerns about the unintended implications and impacts of Donaldson’s actions.
However, the reaction to MrBeast’s project was not one-sided, with one fan of his calling the reaction “ridiculous”.
“The real thing that makes these activists mad is that Mr. Beast solved a problem for very little money and in very little time – and that by doing it so cheaply and quickly, it highlighted the inefficiency and graft of the existing organisations/solutions,” the fan commented on social meda.
One of the primary points of contention was that his project overshadowed the longstanding efforts of local organisations and activists who had been tirelessly working towards the same goal.
Saran Kaba Jones, the founder of FACE Africa, expressed a mix of frustration and understanding, stating: “I’ve been doing this for 15 years, but we’ve been struggling to continue the work because funding, awareness, and advocacy all take work.
“Overnight, this person comes along, who happens to be a white male figure with a huge platform, and all of a sudden, he gets all of the attention. It’s kind of frustrating, but it’s also understanding the nature of how the world is.”
Some critics said MrBeast’s project indirectly highlighted the failures of the Kenyan government, fuelling stereotypes that Africa is dependent on handouts and philanthropic intervention.
Fans of MrBeast compared the YouTuber to Bill Gates, while others questioned the “misleading” headlines about the clean water project.
“This is rage bait,” an X user responded.
“The headlines are deliberately misleading. The only source specifically cited complaining about Mr. Beast here was a Kenyan politician. The NGO source complained that ‘white men’ get more attention but expressed appreciation for what Mr. Beast actually did.”
The controversy surrounding MrBeast’s project was further exacerbated when he openly acknowledged the anticipated backlash.
He stated: “I already know I’m gonna get cancelled because I uploaded a video helping people, and to be 100 per cent clear, I don’t care.”