Within a couple of weeks, I encountered these portrayals of beggars and their interactions with Westerners in African literature. First, in Senegalese writer Aminata Sow Fall’s The Beggars’ Strike (1979), a government minister explains his campaign to rid the city of beggars:
How can I explain… Well, you see, nowadays, people who live a long way away, in Europe and the United States of America, White people especially, are beginning to take an interest in the beauty of our country. These people are called tourists. You know, in the old days these White people came to rob and exploit us; now they visit our country for a rest and in search of happiness. That is why we have built hotels and holiday villages and casinos to welcome them. … And when these tourists visit the city, they are accosted by the beggars and we run the risk of their never coming back here or putting out unfavourable propaganda to discourage others who might like to come. (p18)
A quarter century later, Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o visits the issue in Wizard of the Crow (2006):
The government also had to be mindful not to upset tourism by sweeping too many beggars off the streets. Pictures of beggars or wild animals were what many tourists sent back home as proof of having been in Africa. In Aburiria, wild animals were becoming rare because of dwindling forests and poaching, and tourist pictures of beggars or children with kwashiorkor and flies massing around their runny noses and sore eyes were prized for their authenticity. If there were not beggars in the streets, tourists might start doubting whether Aburiria was an authentic African country. (p35)
I suspect these are each true, depending on the traveller.