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article imageOp-Ed: Why Africa is a basketcase

By Alexander Baron     Aug 19, 2011 in Politics
Writing in 'The Irish Times', ex-patriat Brendan Clerkin argues that aid to Africa has done more harm than good. Is he right?
Clerkin’s article alludes to the researches of Dambisa Moyo, and to his own, personal experiences; his suggestion is that education rather than aid is the solution to Africa’s problems, and he may just be right, because almost every cent that has been poured into the Dark Continent since the 1960s by Western governments (read taxpayers) has been wasted.
Let’s not mention the recent Arab Spring and the seemingly eternal conflict between the Palestinians and the Zionists; these are political problems, and although they relate to North Africa they not part of what might be called the African problem. Africa, or much of it, is a basketcase. The main problem at the moment is Somalia, which is a combination of drought, inhumanity, and civil war. Before that there was Kenya, there were problems in the Horn of Africa, in Niger, before that Malawi; there has been starvation or near starvation coupled with hyper-inflation and tyranny in the once prosperous Rhodesia, now renamed Zimbabwe – appropriately after some ancient ruins – and before that there was Ethiopia, Sudan, and those with really long memories will remember the Biafran famine which led to such delightful schoolboy jokes as what is the definition of a skeleton in the closet? – a Biafran bank manager (after a TV advertisement); and the latest Biafran soccer match - they played Hungary at Nuneaton.
Let us distinguish between humanitarian aid and aid; humanitarian aid is what countries, organisations and individuals give/donate during a humanitarian crisis, such as we are seeing now. No reasonable person could object to that; at times even rich countries need it; the world did not turn its back on Japan after the recent tsunami. Any country can find itself on the receiving end of an earthquake or some manner of violent storm, but African countries seem to have a near monopoly of man made crises, although they are frequently accompanied by drought or crop failure.
The Socialist Workers Party and their fellow travellers have a very simple explanation for the backwardness of Africa, they call it Imperialism. For decades, centuries, the wicked imperialist (read white) nations “sucked” the wealth out of these countries, and they still are. This is not so much wrong as patently silly.
At the height of the Rwandan genocide, the party’s weekly newspaper Socialist Worker stated: “The roots of Rwanda’s civil war lie in the divisions caused by decades of colonial rule by Western powers and the deep poverty that the capitalist world system has brought to Africa.” It concluded with “The only lasting way out is for Rwandans of all ethnic backgrounds to unite against the foreign troops and the rich”, conveniently overlooking the fact that at that very moment, Rwandans were hacking each other to death with machettes while the wicked, Imperialist foreign troops were doing their best to end the horror and restore order.
And how precisely did the Imperialists suck the wealth out of Rhodesia? Consider the following figures, which are extracted from Whitaker’s Almanack, 1967, page 776.
Under white rule, Rhodesia had 33 teacher training schools, 88 secondary schools, and no less than 5 schools “catering for the blind, the deaf and the dumb”.
There were 3,134 primary farm schools; 108 farm schools; 9 homecraft schools; 94 night schools; 614 European and 16,760 African teachers in employment.
When the country was turned over the Robert Mugabe by extending the franchise to illiterates on the spurious pretext of one-man one-vote equating to democracy, he quickly consolidated power and embarked on a programme of what he attempted to pass off as land reform. The theory behind this was that the majority of the farms were held by a few whites, so they were confiscated, split up and handed over to Mugabe supporters. The problem is that some things really don’t work well on a small scale. Henry Ford was able to mass produce cars and pay his workforce handsomely because of the production line and economies of scale. Similarly, America farms especially are able to produce huge quantities of food – grain and meat – because of the economies of scale.
Mugabe and his goons reasoned that smashing up the big concerns and handing them over to small farmers would lead to a “fairer” distribution of resources. What actually happened was inexperienced farmers were not able to apply modern methods, nor to farm productively. A thousand one acre plots may be able to feed or contribute to the well being of a thousand families, but a thousand acre farm can feed many more, and contribute to the country’s exports.
Mugabe’s so-called reforms led to financial ruin for the country, regardless of the aid that poured in. The fall of Rhodesia was predicted by Elmer Pendell in his 1967 book Sex Versus Civlization; the author actually went further and predicted the end of civilisation in that country, due primarily to control being handed over ostensibly to the people, who being largely illiterate, would then be exploited by a tyrannical elite. Although civilisation hasn’t quite ended there, the exodus of what the SWP would call the ruling class (ie the educated whites) has accelerated the country’s descent into tyranny.
Dambisa Moyo has written extensively about the problems that simply pouring aid into African countries has caused, and some have fared far worse than under Comrade Mugabe. That she attended Harvard and worked for Goldman Sachs should not blind us to the fact that occasionally “globalist shills” talk sense.
It may sound paradoxical that giving people money makes them poor, but it is never, or seldom, the poor who receive it.
According to Moyo, over a trillion dollars of what she calls development-related aid has been transferred to Africa over the period of half a century.
A lot of this aid has gone into arming whatever local dictator is in power, has been salted out of the country and stashed away in European bank accounts; markets have been distorted, and not least, there has been corruption on a massive scale, corruption that makes British MPs with their expenses “fiddles” look positively saintly.
Moyo is right when she says Africans must learn to stand on their own feet, and Brendan Clerkin is right when he says money should be invested first and foremost in education, but there must also be meaningful reforms to the economies of these basket case countries, as indeed some African countries are making. For years, Nigeria has been a bye word for corruption, but of late there have been meaningful attempts to stamp it out. Unless and until other African countries follow this lead, we will continue to see these humanitarian tragedies, probably on an even greater scale, and no combination of outstretched hands begging for yet more aid, and left wing idiots railing against Imperialism will do the slightest good.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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