Africa: United in error, divided by truth

Giving alms to Africa remains one of the biggest crusades of our time; millions march for it, governments are judged by it, celebrities say much for the need for it.
The old saying, “Teach a man how to catch fish,” has been forgotten when it comes to Africa and the continent continues to be given one fish at a time.
In 2005, just weeks ahead of the G8 conference that had Africa at the top of its agenda, the International Monetary Fund published a report entitled “Aid Will Not Lift Growth in Africa”.
The report cautioned that governments, donors and campaigners should be more modest in their claims that increased aid will solve Africa’s problems.
Despite such comments, no serious efforts have been made to wean Africa off this debilitating drug.
And African leaders and civil society continue to want to live on alms without making any serious effort to become self-reliant.
Calls for more “aid” to Africa are instead growing louder, with campaigners pushing for pouring more billions of dollars of international assistance.
But overwhelming evidence has demonstrated that “aid” for Africa has made the poor poorer and economic growth even slower.
The “aid” has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, and more unattractive to higher-quality investment.
“Aid” is an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster.
The most obvious criticism of “aid” is its links to rampant corruption.
Money supposedly destined for the average African ends up supporting bloated bureaucracies, several studies have shown.
Dambisa Moyo, in her groundbreaking book “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa,” argues that: “The 1970s were an exciting time to be African.
“Many of our nations had just achieved independence, and with that came a deep sense of dignity, self respect and hope for the future.”
African nations should focus on increasing trade, China is one promising partner.
And Western countries can help by cutting off the cycle of giving something for nothing.
I do not intend to offend anyone, but to deal with the truth.
But it now seems Africa has become united in error while being divided by the truth.
It is erroneous to depend on foreign “aid”, and it is truth that we should stop depending on the “aid” that the Western countries continue to dangle to the African continent.
If “aid” is so effective and the panacea to Africa’s problems, why does the continent remain stagnant economically?
Even the IMF, the foremost proponent of financial interference in Africa’s development affairs acknowledges that “aid” does not help and yet we continue to clamour for it.
It seems that there are many lazy elements in Africa who do not want to think about developing the continent and are content with asking for handouts from a Western world intent on exploiting us.
The aid system encourages poor governments to pick up the phone and ask donor agencies for the next capital infusion.
Africa is now stuck in an aid world of no incentives for development, and there seems to be no reason for governments to seek other, better, more transparent ways of taking their countries forward.
African countries should explore opportunities to raise capital in non-traditional markets such as the Middle East, Iran to be specific, and China (whose foreign exchange reserves are now estimated at more than US$4 trillion).
This dependency on aid means African leaders are abdicating on their responsibilities and promises to the electorate before the votes have been cast.
The problem is not just with financial “aid”.
Why should the continent continue to ask for food aid and yet it has some of the most fertile, virgin lands in the world today.
Under the auspices of the US Food for Peace Programme, each year millions of dollars are used to buy American grown food that is then shipped across oceans to feed Africans.
We – especially in Zimbabwe – are always talking about how ownership of land leads to empowerment and yet we do not use that land to grow our own food.
One wonders how a system of flooding African markets with American food, which puts local farmers out of business, actually helps make Africa a better place.
“A better strategy would be to use aid money to buy food from farmers within the country, and then distribute that food to the local citizens in need,” once suggested former South African President Thabo Mbeki.
We have no excuse for not feeding ourselves.
We cannot be a continent of beggars while claiming that we are independent!

December 2011
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