YouTube’s most popular star is lending his fame and fortune to the water needs of various African countries, helping to facilitate the construction of 100 drinking water wells for small villages where access to questionable water sources often includes dangerous daily hikes.
Mr. Beast, aka Jimmy Donaldson, draws tens of millions of views within days of launching his team’s philanthropic “giveaway” videos. His latest, “I Built 100 Wells in Africa”, drew more than 70 million views on the video-sharing platform just after its release.
Donaldson says the new wells will provide clean drinking water to more than 500,000 people in countries including Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Cameroon. The wells can provide up to 3,600 gallons per day, and last as long as 30 years, according to the video.
“Just so you know how we built these first 29 wells, we used this giant drill to dig hundreds of feet into the ground, past the polluted sources, and into an enormous aquifer of pure, drinkable water,” Donaldson explains in the video. “After that, we spend time installing pipes so that people all around Africa can access water from spigots like this one in Nairiri,” he added.
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In some areas the water is fed into large barrels and then raised atop nearby water towers. Some of these towers utilize 200-watt solar panels that provide power to pumps.
Mr. Beast, 25, is estimated to be worth approximately $500 million from the success of his YouTube videos. He has pledged that all ad revenue earned from the new African wells video will be invested back into his philanthropic drinking water endeavour.
In addition to the new drinking water wells, the Mr. Beast team also contributed laptops, digital teaching aids, classroom furniture and books, as well as bicycles and sporting equipment to a number of communities. The new YouTube video also has an accompanying Water is Life fundraiser to support local water aid organizations that has already raised nearly $500,000.
Only 31% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa use a safely-managed water source, according to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals tracker.
Donaldson’s sensational giveaway videos, which have included efforts such as giving away 1,000 high-tech hearing aids, free private islands, or simply cash giveaways to people in need, regularly face criticism for being exploitative.
In the case of the African wells video, some detractors have drawn attention to the lack of maintenance and operations information shared by the Mr. Beast team of about 250 members.
Saran Kaba Jones, founder and CEO of FACE Africa, who has been working to improve water infrastructure and sanitation in Africa for 15 years, told CNN that half of the wells she encounters built by non-profits no longer work due to a lack of a long-term infrastructure plan.
“The issue is sustainability,” warned Jones. “It’s one thing to go in and install the well, it’s another thing for us to go back to three, four, or five years from now, and see if that well is still functional.”
It was not clear in the video if the Mr. Beast team has a long-term operations and maintenance strategy for the wells beyond their installation.
However, the Water is Life website does explain that donations will support “vetted and approved local organizations across the world” who are part of the communities they work in and know their needs “intimately”.