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Aid for Africa - noble and compassionate or shortsighted and patronising?

(27 Posts)
suzywong Wed 08-Jun-05 01:15:13

I know that the Live 8 thing is in the news a lot and on people's minds. I was at the first Live Aid and it really opened my eyes and got my teenage energy going towards the great divides between the first and the third worlds and I was vigorous supporter.

However, I came across this comment on the BBC news website

As an African, I am full of anger knowing that my people have become mere pawns in this very cynical and self-serving antic of doing something for Africa - whatever this means. This is a game in which the real obstacles to our people's economic emancipation (i.e., African rulers) are gratuitously indulged at every opportunity, while our people become increasingly poorer.

I just wish that the Blairs and the Geldofs of this world would stop exploiting my people's suffering in this way. It is, after all, the case, that no impoverished African has ever asked anyone for aid. If the Blairs and the Geldofs of this world cannot join us in demanding responsible governance on our continent, I say, leave us alone; stop prolonging our suffering with these antics. Enough is enough!

UE, UK/Nigeria


and it made me think; is the first world misguided in it's zeal for aid or should the more toothy issue of tackling the widespread problems with those who govern African countires be addressed before aid is handed over?

There are plenty of other comments on that website, I just thought I'd start the ball rolling with this one as it's one that jumped out at me.

Nightynight Wed 08-Jun-05 08:48:18

suzy,
interesting post. I think it will change, but long term. Too much in ex-colonial countries still belongs to Europeans, so they have a big reason to manipulate Africans

stitch Wed 08-Jun-05 09:10:27

everytime i hear george w bush talk, it makes me want to vomit.
remember it was the first one who refused to sign the agreement on the nevironment in 92 because 'it would be bad for american industry'

expatinscotland Wed 08-Jun-05 09:19:54

I agree, suzy. 'Give a man a fish, and he eats for the day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.'

Giving more and more aid is not empowering Africa's people, and too often ends up in the wrong hands.

Having worked with many asylum-seekers over the year, what gets me is how stupid the Geldofs and Blairs, etc. of this world presume the Africans to be. They seem to assume Africans don't know what is going on and what is best for their nations.

That's why I don't support this whole March for Justice (sounds eerily similar to his Fathers for Justice role). The only relic of justice that can be for the atrocities committed there is change. REAL, lasting change in governance.

cod Wed 08-Jun-05 09:19:55

Message withdrawn

JoolsToo Wed 08-Jun-05 09:22:48

When I first heard this my first thought was will the aid get through to where its needed. There is so much corruption that the answer is probably 'no' and it makes you wary of giving.

Lizzylou Wed 08-Jun-05 09:23:58

My friend works for a volunteer organisation in Johannesburg and has sent home a rant on Western efforts and where money goes once it is raised.....she also sent this link..
wdm.org.uk
Unfair terms of trade are the main problems, and raising aid just isn't enough...one quote jumps out:
"If they increased their share of world exports by 5%, developing countries would earn an extra $350bn a year, three times more than they will be given in 2015" Privatisation and so-called Free-trade inflicted by the west on economically weaker countries is keeping developing countries where the EU and US want them.........

hannahsaunt Wed 08-Jun-05 09:30:29

Make Poverty History isn't about donating money - it's about fair trade, debt servicing which require action plans to demonstrate appropriate use of money (without any conditions e.g. previous debt servicing has enabled installation of water supplies in Tanzania but the condition of service from the UK was that the water supply should be privatised with the franchise being held by a UK company!!!), and more appropriate aid. Remember Bob Geldof was a part of the Africa Commission and the primary theme was appropriate governance within African states.

Read more here and here

gingerbear Wed 08-Jun-05 09:40:15

There was an interesting article in the Independent last Saturday by Andy Kershaw (DJ / music journo /long time African music supporter)
He was asking why Live8 only had ONE African music act (Youssu N'dour).
original article
ensuing row
quote "If we are going to change the West's perception of Africa, events like this are the perfect opportunity to do something for Africa's self-esteem," he said. "But the choice of artists for the Live8 concerts will simply reinforce the global perception of Africa's inferiority."

It made me stop and think too Suzy.

As ex-colonial rulers of Africa, Europe has a lot of guilt and Aid is a way to soften the guilt. But how on earth can Mugabe et al be ousted without almighty bloodshed and further damaging poor nations?

Gwenick Wed 08-Jun-05 09:44:06

Don't have any real 'comments' on the issue in question.

But Gingerbear - re Mugabe - he's digging himself a nice grave as we speak, after he allowed 'war veterans' (who would have been tiny babies, or some not even born at independence) invade and burn the farms, and given some of them over to his government colleagues.......he's now announced.........


Plans to change the consitution to bar land ownership and 'nationalise' the land - so not very popular with his 'own' at the moment.

PLUS

They've also just done an HUGE 'clean up' operation, which involved destroying 10,000's of homes and streetside businesses - which of course they couldn't 'help' but report...

gingerbear Wed 08-Jun-05 09:48:29

The American Government effectively PAYS US cotton farmers to grow cotton. It costs 48c per pound which is 30c less than it costs the farmer to grow it, yet US cotton farmers are rich - billions of dollars are paid in subsidies. Yet in Benin, farmers are going out of business because they cannot afford to compete with US farmers and such low cotton prices.

Food for thought when buying £1.99 teeshirts from Tesco.

suzywong Wed 08-Jun-05 09:53:28

very interesting points and I haven't checked the links out yet
but to echo gingerbear and gwenick's questions, how can the corrupt governance change if the world does not demand those African governments to accept complicity in Africa's problems too and perpetuates the Africans as underdogs and helpless victims?

hannahsaunt Wed 08-Jun-05 09:59:25

Paying farmers to grow isn't confined to US cotton or indeed to the US. Why do you think the EU leaders are so reluctant to address the issues of the Common Agricultural Policy and GATT? The stranglehold of multi nationals and protectionist policies viz USA on the global economy is causing a degree of suffering everywhere (see UK dairy farmers) but the sheer scale of the problem is seen most significantly in the developing world. Please read up on trade injustice - it's a political problem which politicians need to solve and their only impetus is their own self-interest - they need to be encouraged into action - everyone has a role to play in sending postcards (you can even do it online - it's not that hard!), writing to their MPs, shopping for fair trade goods and locally produced foods. It's not about sending a cheque and hoping that it will ease your conscience.

WideWebWitch Wed 08-Jun-05 10:09:10

Ooh suzywong, what an interesting question, don't know if I'll have time to write much before dd wakes but my first thoughts are that yes, like you I remember the first Live Aid and thinking how brilliant it was that Sir Bob (plain Bob as he was then) could apparently cut through all the red tape and bullshit to the reality of starving millions and actually galvanise people into doing something about it. But I was young then! Now I'm not so sure. But I need to read more, I'm not entirely sure what I feel about this, except that instinctively I want global trade to be fair and I know it isn't. God, that's a shallow post innit, sorry! May post more later.

soapbox Wed 08-Jun-05 10:14:12

I think the problem is that to many people in the West 'aid' is interpreted as being food and medicines. We've seen so many times the bags of grains and rices being unloaded from the lorries to allieviate the immediate needs of desperate people.

The actuality is that 'aid' has become far more sophisticated in the last 10 years or so. Much more of it is project based, putting in basic services such as water, sanitation, irrigation, building schools, building new markets, providing transport links, looking at sustainable agriculture projects, teaching business and entreprenuerial skills, opening up banking facilities, providing credit facilities to buy seed grain etc.

There is a need for both kinds of aid as the recent images from Darfur show. However there is definately a bigger bang for your buck from the sustainable project type work.

However, the reasons why much of Africa remains in a perilous state is down to the lack of democratic process in those countries. It is all to easy to say, oh well just bully these countries into being democracies but this has been tried and has failed many times in recent history. Culturally that is not the way in which Africa has organised its society.

The forgiveness of debt may well help but there are difficulties in how this releif reaches and enriches the lives of those living in poverty, rather than those who operate in the upper echelons of African society. Without debt relief though, there is insufficient funds to invest in large scale projects - hospitals, factorys, trains etc.

Fair trade has always struck me as having a fair chance of succeeding, but to really make an impact we have to accept the likes of Nike, GAP etc investing directly in those economies. To do so they have to have assurances over the safety of their employees and over their ability to get money out of the country and back into dollars. Is some African nations it is not possible to see how this could be the case. Yet without large scale employment (and in most developing world cases this means factory work) then there will be little scope for sustainable stable economic growth in those countries.

Africa is at times an imponderable issue, however, the fact that the solutions are hard to find and when found sometimes do not work, does not mean that we can all just walk away and forget the problem exists. We have to keep going to find the right ways to help these proud people to help themselves!

Gwenick Wed 08-Jun-05 10:18:21

I guess this is a 'slight' plug for our business - but I'm VERY proud to say that the on of our suppliers for the accessories on our website (not many on their yet - they'll be added later this week) to quote them

"was established in 1999 to contribute towards poverty alleviation through the design, production, marketing and sale of traditional and contemporary craft. The organisation has successfully marketed high quality products produced by rural communities in South Africa and abroad and is thus turning effort and skill into successful income generation and job creation."


Admittedly we make a small profit from selling their stuff, but I guess most companies in the UK selling Fair Trade stuff makes a profit from it.

moondog Wed 08-Jun-05 10:22:11

Very interesting thread. This is dh's line (currently in eastern Turkey which is bloody poor) Bugger-got to pick up dh from school!
Read Mark Steyn in yesterday's Telegraph-love him,hits the nail on the head!

moondog Wed 08-Jun-05 10:22:36

Good for you gwenick!

Gizmo Wed 08-Jun-05 10:57:02

For those interested in this issue can I recommend Noreen Hertz's book 'IOU: the Debt threat and how to defuse it'. Excellent writing around some clear economic thinking and best of all, some suggestions on how the issue of debt might be dealt with going forward.

It's particulary good on examining the culpability of the west and our lending institutions in collaborating with some really unpleasant regimes without any real due diligence on the loans.

Plus (and I don't say this about economics books very often) it's a really entertaining read!

Bugsy2 Wed 08-Jun-05 15:03:41

Desperately want to know more about this issue. I always feel that project aid is fantastic: well building, construction projects etc etc. Always think that throwing money at people is not the way to go, particularly when the administration at the top is corrupt.
The first world, IMO, does owe many of these former colonies as they took so much from these countries in the first place.

Pruni Wed 08-Jun-05 15:23:43

Message withdrawn

TwoIfBySea Wed 08-Jun-05 22:21:45

Patronising, and as I said in my rant on the "Bob's boats" thread, it is the trade policies that need changed. I laughed out loud when Geldof talked about "men in suits" getting told what to do by people with guitars, and he was wearing a fine pin-stripe! What a farce!

Its like putting water in a bucket full of holes. And to repeat myself, 20 years on you would think they would understand that!

Nigeria has huge oil reserves yet its people are amongst the poorest in the world. The aid money lines the pockets of the rich governments in these countries while the people who need actual help are ignored. And Africa isn't the only place, what about the poor of South America and other places of the world, don't they deserve some attention.

I think they should have more ideas like the Oxfam buying a goat/pig/whatever. That way you are giving money to be of some use to a family there.

And how much money is being wasted on these protests? Wouldn't the money spent on getting here be of better use going to the charities?

csa Thu 09-Jun-05 20:04:28

echo gizmo. reading Noreen Hertz's book at the moment and it does make you realise that over the years, a significant amount of "aid" money from the IMF, World Bank, etc. supposedly helping the people of the countries the money goes to actually ends up in the pockets of corrupt government, the select few and corporations. I do not necessarly think that corporations are charity and is absolutely not under any impression that they exist for no other reason than profits, but there is something foul about making profits at the expense of another human's right to life.

zippy539 Thu 09-Jun-05 20:10:38

Don't have anything constructive to add as don't have stats etc to hand but just wanted to say it is FANTASTIC to see this kind of debate on Mumsnet.

SenoraPostrophe Thu 09-Jun-05 20:25:51

I think the trade injustice argument is a bit of a red herring to be honest. Don't get me wrong, I think they should abolish CAP and reduce trade barriers etc, but it won't help the people of African nations with corrupt governments much. In fact, for the majority, it may even increase the price of daily necessities without increasing their means.

Corruption and war are the biggest obstacles to the average African's "economic emancipation", I agree, but both Blair and Geldof have spoken out against it on numerous occasions. Doesn't do any good though.

I also disagree that the West's trying to impose democracy on African nations is cultural imperialism. A whole state being run by one dictator is hardly the traditional African way (they learned that from us in colonial times) and democracy is a better bet.

So anyway, in the absense of any positive arguments for anything I think that aid, LIve aid whatever is in general a good thing. The money from live aid went directly to projects. I'll be giving them some money anyway.

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