The Talking Lion

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

You mean Africans actually have their own ideas about improving their continent?

So they had that whole Live 8 thing this weekend, which was cool. I give mad props to Bob Geldorf and Co. for mobilizing such a huge effort, raising money and most of all, increasing awareness about the lack of attention paid to the problems in Africa. It's something that is not talked about enough and there is so much more that our country and its citizens could be doing.

Unfortunately, putting on a huge concert is not going to do much at all to fix things on the continent, according to the Washington Post. Even increased aid money from the U.S. government doesn't really get at the heart of the problem. This story, which ran on the front page of Sunday's edition, talks about how "ordinary Africans" will not be afected by an increase in foreign aid and that energy should be focused elsewhere. A sample:

Peter Kanans, a coffee farmer whose house has no running water and a leaking roof, said he had a message for the leaders of the world's richest countries who will meet at the G-8 summit next week: Unfair trade practices are enriching African officials and international coffee chains while village farmers grow steadily poorer.

"Like many hardworking Africans, I have a serious bone to pick with the G-8," said Kanans, a slender man of 60 who has a college education but wears shredded flip-flops. This year, Kanans said, his crop netted about $300 -- less than his brother in Delaware spends in two months on takeout cappuccinos.

"Even if they cancel the debt, even if they give our governments aid money, ordinary Africans will not benefit," he said. "That money will only make the corrupt people richer and Africans international beggars for decades to come."

So, there is definitely no easy solution. But at the very least, there should be someone out there advocating for something more than just increased aid. There should be someone out there saying "Hey, let's listen to what the Africans have to say, they're the ones who actually live there, after all." And what they're saying is that things are more complicated than Westerners want to think they are. More from the Wash Post article:

Africans interviewed this week, from farmers to artists to health workers, say they are grateful for the outpouring of sentiment, and glad to hear that glamorous musicians and actors are championing their cause and that college students are wearing bracelets with the slogan, "Make Poverty History."

But they also said there was a dangerous disconnect between what the industrialized nations see as solutions and what Africans believe they need. Instead of debt relief and more aid, many Africans said they wanted the G-8 to focus on ending corruption and on improving roads, courts, banking and secondary education.

Another useful step, many Africans said, would be to end Western countries' trade subsidies for their own farmers, which make it impossible for African industries to do much more than survive. Debt relief, some asserted, is actually hush money to get free trade advocates off the backs of European countries, the United States and Japan, which offer huge subsidies to their corn, cattle and cotton farmers and thus undercut African farmers' ability to enter the market.

Instead of criticizing the other side for their lack of aid money, time is better spent figuring out more appropriate ways to solve the problems at hand and working with Africans to find out exactly what needs to be done. Anything else is just playing politics.


  • Instead of giving Africa money, maybe we should spend the money on personnel and goods and services FOR them? Like buying construction equipment and infrastructure recources: asphalt, concrete, steel, machinery, electrical wire, computers, generators, fuel, etc... ?

    Of course Im also for debt relief, but the debt relief should come with promises of audited governmental responsibility for its citizens, to help prevent the fat cats from getting fatter.

    By Blogger Aaron Kinney, at Wednesday, 06 July, 2005  

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