I think we talk a lot about the aid given to Africa, about how ethical it is, how much it really helps, if it helps and so on. After hearing what one representative of Generation ’89 had to say about the aid the EU is giving to Africa, I wanted to know what the people living in African countries think about the overly discussed issue of aid.
It was easy to find that out. I was watching the interview of Rwandan president Paul Kagame by ex-CNN, well-known journalist Christian Amanpour. At 02.20 minutes of the video, she asks him about aid. Then she asked the people watching the show to answer the following question on her Facebook page, “Can foreign aid make countries independent or only more dependent?” 118 people from all over the world gave very interesting answers. I decided to select a few of them and ask further questions through Facebook.
These are the people selected and their respective answers on Amanpour’s Facebook page:
Nneka Chris-Ukoko, Nigerian, currently living in Houston, Texas, said:
“Foreign aid makes African nations more dependent in the sense that it makes our leaders more corrupt. Africa is a wealthy continent with criminals at the helm of affair. They syphon our wealth to the Western world where they are welcomed with open arms and allowed to save their ill-gotten wealth in banks. These banks invest our money to better their country, and Africans are left in abject poverty, completely dependent on aid that is indirectly tied to our money stored in their banks! It is high time the world stops giving us aid!! Yes, that is the only way the masses will rise up and say to "enough is enough" and eventually bring about change. The only good the world can do is close down all bank accounts of all African politicians. That is the aid we want”.
Nejeeb 'Souljazz' Bello from Lagos, Nigeria, said:
“There are few countries which provide unconditional foreign aid and they include Canada and Japan. When countries like the USA give foreign aid, there are always enough strings attached to make the recipient a puppet. In as much as the puppeteer wants the profitable show to continue, they would continue to make the recipient dependent on more and more aid so they can cut more and more profitable deals. President Kagame spoke well, and I do appreciate his clarification on some of the issues affecting his country and Africa at large.”
Janette Waweru from Kenya said:
“Only more dependent. I'm in Kenya and we get A LOT of food aid even though we have a lot of arable land, our government refuses to equip farmers with the right tools to plant more hardy varieties of grain, fruits or vegetables. If Israel, a desert, can be self-sufficient, why can't we?”
Clarence Ndunguru from Tanzania:
“Foreign aid is a nightmare to Third World countries. Recipients of aid, mostly Third World countries including my country Tanzania, sell their freedom in a deceptive way. It is however an egoistic strategy of the developed countries to keep themselves oppressors and us the oppressed. Slavery has come in a nicely packaged form.”
I found these comments very interesting, therefore, I decided to go one step further and get in touch with the authors to ask them more questions. I also sent them the link to the Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speech on aid versus trade posted by Guido in one of his first entries. I asked them if their opinion would remain exactly the same, even after watching her video. Here are the answers I received from two of them:
Nneka Chris-Ukoko wrote to me:
“I am listening to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala right now. Well, what can I say? Is she blaming the Western World? They don't consult with the "Bill Gates" of Africa before deciding what projects to focus on in Africa. Mmm! Who is the "Bill Gates" in Nigeria or Africa? Whose job is it to seek out the intellects in Africa? Anyway, I don't even know where to begin. She talked about aid in Spain and how they have used it to build infrastructures and wonders why the same thing is not done in Africa. The problem is the African people. Mediocre are in power, the intelligent ones work with the World Bank and spend most of their time outside the country and come out to give impressive speeches. The visible Africans are the thieves who divert aids to line their pockets. We do not need aid. We are a wealthy continent. If the developed world will return all the ill-gotten wealth stored up in their banks by our leaders to our continent, then may be something can be done in terms of development. The only thing that can change our continent is a complete overhaul of our minds. When, like the developed world, we begin to think about what we can do for our country, and not what our country can do for us, maybe change will come. Africa is a complicated continent and I am very pessimistic about where we are going, especially about my country Nigeria. Everything said is just rhetoric. Maybe if Ms. Okonjo-Iweala will contribute to our country by building a school with some of the money she has made working honestly overseas, she will set an example for others to follow”.
Nejeeb 'Souljazz' Bello wrote to me a very long and text. I am sharing here a big part of it (I tried to edit it as little as possible):
“I have to start by suggesting that Nigeria comes up with Nigerian solutions to Nigerian problems. Imposition of policies by foreign agencies or foreign governments should be done away with as they only serve the benefit of those who formulate them.The most important step Nigeria should take in developing itself is to stop exporting crude oil and begin to refine all crude oil produced in the country within the country. Jobs will be created; there'll be massive added value for petroleum products which comprise Nigeria's largest export. With the doubling of the revenue accruing from the sale of petroleum products, Nigeria's GDP almost automatically doubles without any increase in the price of crude oil. Therefore jobs are created, wealth is retained, GDP is doubled, and technology is transferred. However, for refining and export of petroleum products to be efficient and beneficial, the entire sector has to be privatized and liberalized. The government has to sell its refineries and oil companies to private investors. The Nigerian government has to create an avenue for foreign companies which have the specialization in nuclear power production to have access to partner with local firms in investing in power sector. With adequate power, the industries will come alive and more jobs will be created, import will be substituted, and export will diversify. This diversification of export is so important that not only industrial products should be diversified into, but also a lot of natural resources that have been left untapped: gold, uranium, coal and even agricultural products.
Those are the basic means I believe that Nigeria can develop itself.
Nigeria should totally reject aid from countries such as the USA and those of the EU. To start with, the USA is about the most impoverished nation in the world today presently with a national debt of $12,883,599,621,059.71 as at the moment of preparing this document. However, if this reaches you tomorrow at noon, then you'll have to add $4 billion to that figure. If you're utilizing this information in a month's time, you may have to add $124 billion in order to make your data accurate because the national debt of the USA increases by $4.12 billion daily (http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock). Considering this huge national debt of the USA, which is about equivalent to 100% of their GDP, it therefore makes no sense that such a country be burdened with providing aid to other countries. In a situation where we find a country in dire need for hard currency doling it out like every day was Christmas, we have to realize that they must get much more in return. When these countries such as the USA and Western European countries give out aid, they sign agreements with the recipient countries which then have to modify their policy to suit the donor countries especially in the area of international trade and defense all in the name of reforms. In 2003, we saw the USA attempting to bribe the Republic of Guinea with aid in return for using Guinea's temporary seat at the UN Security Council to support the war on Iraq, but of course, Guinea would never have gotten a dime of the billions of dollar of spoils of war from Iraq in the form of oil money. In another case, we have a situation where the USA continues to furnish Nigeria with aid just as long as Nigeria continues to dedicate the larger percentage of its crude oil exports to the USA. In other words, this foreign aid to Africa is only good for misdirecting the national policy of African countries to the economic benefits of the Western donor countries. Today, Nigeria intends to go into nuclear power generation and it is becoming clearer by the day as President Goodluck Jonathan has gone to seek partnership, aid and assistance from the government of the USA. I guess we're set for our own 34 year of nothing but waste. Countries like Nigeria should not only desist from seeking aid, they should totally denounce foreign aid even when it is freely offered”.
Now I am asking the readers of this entry: How do these points of view influence what you know and think about foreign aid?
The picture was taken by me during my trip to Lagos, Nigeria, in November 2009.