Will Africa’s Leaders Call for An End to Our Crippling Foreign Aid?
Foreign aid has helped make Africa poorer!
In fact, it has helped make the African poor poorer, has made growth slower, has caused life expectancy to stagnate (in some cases regressing back to 1950s levels), has hurt literacy rates, and has created an atmosphere of dependency at all levels of society. As a way to illustrate the failure of such a heavy reliance on foreign aid, "Just 30 years ago Malawi, Burundi, Burkina Faso were economically ahead of China on a per capita income basis."
At least that is what Dambisa Moyo argues in her book Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. Moyo pleads with Western voters to put an end to the disastrous cycle of foreign aid in which Africa is stuck.
Why Isn’t It Working?
What is it that makes Africa such a broken place, while the rest of the developing world is so full of success stories? It’s the foreign aid, Moyo writes. Take Africa off the foreign welfare, and watch her flourish. No more grants, no more low-interest World Bank loans, and definitely no more free mosquito nets. Just let Africa prove herself.
To back up her theory, Moyo shows the Western reader the benefits that China has brought to the continent with its dollars aimed at investment. The West wants to bring aid to soothe its guilty post-colonial feelings. "Morality – Western, liberal, guilt-tripped morality – seeped into the development equation," writes Moyo. Some of the Western aid even comes with judgmental strings attached and a plethora of administrative hoops to jump through. China, conversely, comes with clear intentions – make money, extract the oil and minerals, generate trade partners, and build goodwill that will last through the 21st century.
Sixty years of Western help and some $1 trillion of foreign aid has achieved little in Africa. Throwing more money at the same problems with the same solutions in place is not likely to achieve a different end. Moyo proposes solutions with high praise for the Chinese, who, she quite clearly points out, are in Africa purely for their own good.
In the 154-page (excluding notes) book, which at times serves as a primer on foreign aid, Moyo expresses the potential for businesses to invest in Africa; she draws a specific distinction between reconstruction v. development; and she even criticizes Hollywood and other celebrities for silencing all meaningful debate on this topic.
"Were aid simply innocuous – just not doing what it claimed it would do – this book would not have been written. The problem is that aid is not benign – it’s malignant. No longer part of the potential solution, it’s part of the problem – in fact aid is the problem," she writes.
Moyo tells how a well-intentioned Hollywood-inspired private donation of a million mosquito nets from America will, overnight, turn 150 people into beggars by inundating the local market for mosquito nets, thereby driving down demand and running a local producer of mosquito nets out of business. This forces his employees and their families to beg for food. Within five years, those million mosquito nets will be in useless tatters, and there will have been no added economic infrastructure developed to replace those mosquito nets.
She calls for a different course from this point on, a course similar to the one the Chinese seem be taking in Africa – investing. She wants the goodwill to end, and wants the West to invest in Africa, ready to put trust in its people and hire them as workers, ready to trade with its businessmen, ready to mine her for her mineral wealth. She spends half the book making quite the convincing argument for how Westerners might be able to make a great deal of money investing in Africa.
If looking at this from a Marxist-influenced perspective everything Moyo is calling for could also be referred to as "exploitation." Exploit Africa, exploit her workers, exploit her natural resources. Do it. Once you’re done, Africa will be a continent of strong, developed nations. Stop being guilty about Africa, and making her into nothing but a welfare queen. Yes, this is an African woman begging bleeding-heart Westerners to stop seeing Africa through the soft bigotry of low expectations.
This book is the most damning argument against foreign altruism that I’ve ever read. She asks us to please stop doing good just for the sake of doing good. You only hurt people with that attitude, and you only benefit yourself and nurture your own ego. Well-intentioned meddling is still meddling.
Moyo closes with a fitting African proverb:
The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.
The second-best time is now.
So What Do We Do?
While it’s clear to Moyo that this welfare system needs to come to an end, it’s not clear to the bleeding hearts in America, both left and right. So what can we do about that?
1. For starters, we can look at the outcomes of programs we propose instead of blindly supporting programs that make us feel better for supporting them.
2. We can also look at the U.S. Constitution, which, wisely, does not make room for gifts of foreign aid from the U.S. Government. Foreign aid is entirely anathema to the concept of the Constitution. Donations can easily be dealt with voluntarily by individuals and organizations. Since Moyo criticizes the U.S. Government and other western governments for causing ill with our beneficence, perhaps the radical notion of simply following the Constitution would be a proper course for us.
3. We can support candidates for office who would like to end the stream of foreign aid and who consistently vote against foreign aid. That would include this guy and exclude this guy, this guy, this guy, and this guy.
4. We can send articles like this one that you are reading to our friends who are staunch supporters of foreign aid programs. We can be the ones reopening debate on this issue and other important issues.
We shouldn’t expect Africa’s leaders to call for an end to American foreign aid however, since that foreign aid – like any government gravy train – enriches the people who are closest to it. Industries have popped up around Western foreign aid and as Upton Sinclair pointed out in 1934 “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends up on his not understanding it!”
What we can do is to be good stewards of the power and influence that came with the riches our country has by standing and saying – “No more!” We no longer want Africa, a continent with many beautiful cultures, a continent history that long predates ours, to be dependent on us just so that we can feel better about ourselves. There are better ways to handle guilt.
Allan Stevo is a writer from Chicago. He is the author of the recently released book How to Win America for Ron Paul and the Cause of Freedom in 2012, which he wrote because he knows that Ron Paul can walk into Washington D.C. as president-elect on January 20, 2013. Learn more by taking a look at his book.