Saturday, March 11, 2006

Pan-Africa: Broken Promises

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Africa pledges 'not materialised'

Many reforms on trade and conflict promised in Prime Minister Tony Blair's Africa Commission Report last year have yet to materialise, according to Oxfam.

The aid agency said real advances had been made on aid and debt relief, but opportunities were being missed on fairer trade and arms dealing.

However, International Development Secretary Hilary Benn said large portions of debt had been written off.

He said a new humanitarian fund would also help combat famine in Africa.
As an African, I simply wanted to say that I am tired of, and frustrated with the lack of delivery that seems to always follow the West's grandiose promises to Africa, and its people. Similarly to this story, we are still waiting for the billions of dollars that the Bush guy promised for AIDS, we are still waiting on some recognition of the negative effects of colonialism (as opposed to the positive ones that France seems to have dreamt into law recently), and our cousins in the USA are still waiting for their acres and their mule - or some equivalent in a more effective eqal opportunity campaign. I am cynically still wondering...

[Note 03/13/2006: From Brian's comment below, I have gathered that my weakness in English may have created a misunderstanding here, and my sarcasm was missed. I appologize. What I meant the French law, I believe that it was wrong. See what I meant to say was not that it was a positive thing, and that the French were admiting to colonial wrongs (that would have been a lie). In fact the law I was referring to wanted to praise the positive effects of French colonialism in History schoolbooks (which I find totally ludicrous). So, in fact I was criticizing the French just as much, if not more, as was criticizing the others. Just so we are clear.]


Brian said...

I hate to say anything might be misconstrued as disrespectful, but is Africa going to remain in a state of animation while everyone waits vainly for the outsiders to help?

Billions of dollars in western money has been given to African countries already, but if it had been used effectively the continent would be in better shape. As an American, I support foreign aid programs but I want them to help raise the standard of people in the recipient countries. Unfortunately, the tone of your article makes it sound like the US and Britain are solely responsible for Africa's underdevelopment and they should just blindly give more money to African bureaucracies without regard to how that money is spent. It's perfectly reasonable to criticize broken promises but you make it sound like you're just waiting for foreign money to solve all of the continent's problems.

And frankly it's shocking that you're more worried about symbolism than substance. France passes a law saying colonialism wasn't all peaches and cream and you are suddenly supposed to forget about how they meddle in African countries' domestic affairs left and right! Ask the Ivorians if they think French colonialism is dead, regardless of the French law.

TheMalau said...

Brian, dear Brian, welcome back to The Salon! It has been a while!!

Okay, we have differences of opinion before, but I hope that the note I just added in the message will help alleviate at least part of the concerns you raised. I appologize if that French law thing did not come out right, and I will make sure to double check myself next time, so what I write conveys exactly what I intend to say.

Now to answer your question in the first paragraph: No, Africa should not just be waiting for Aid, and not be accountable for it. Africans need to clean up their act, YES; but they also need to be put in an International climate that allows for that cleanup. This means no under the table deals between Anglo-American, Chevron, Shell, or Halliburton (I hear they are coming) and corrupt leaders and/or rebels; punitive measures on companies buying vital raw materials (diamonds, coltan, etc) from wartorn areas; a more democratic Security Council in the UN; and last but not least, the West stop paying lip-service to those ideals they supposedly stand for, and actually have the guts to send soldiers where these ideals are under attack (and not just those places where these ideals are under attack above oil fields).

I guess I am asking for too much, ain't I? See, I have no qualms with the idea that anyone giving money away, would rather see it used fruitfully, for the greater good of all Africans. And although I would still lobby for more money, I would have much less problems with the US and the UK, if they did not make such grandiloquent promises, raise people's hopes, and then not deliver, and act like nothing ever happened. We have enough of that with our own leaders.

And might I also venture that much of the billions of dollars given to Africa over the years, were given to the very despots that the West supported, while being very aware of the said despots' chronic cleptocracy practices. So although I do not believe that all the blame of Africa's problems lies on the US, and the UK, France, Belgium, etc, I definitely believe that they have strongly contributed in making the situation worse - of at their (or their companies) own advantage by the way. If we could compare the endemic corruption in Africa to a drug addiction, the West has definitely been, in more ways than one, our enabler.

Don't get me wrong, Brian. I am not that naive, to believe that there is such a thing as an ideal, flawless, altruistic regime on this planet. Even when it comes to reparations, I have no illusion, nor a real wish to receive some money in the mail, for the suffering of my ancestors, and their cousins who were taken on boats (and its devastating aftermath on my people today). I would settle for a public acknowledgement of the wrongs committed, a public appology; a recognition that subhuman conditions and status were imposed on full-fledged human beings, as a matter of law, and that the majority of Europeans (on either side of the Atlantic) did not really see anything wrong with that. That's all I am personally asking for. Because you see, in Africa, as I am sure you know, symbols can go a long way, to affect and change behaviors and practices; that would be a very powerful symbol.

P.S: I know the Ivorians are feeling the effects of both France's colonial and neo-colonial policies. But they are also suffering the effects of a very unhealthy - and artificially fostered - tribalism. And the French were not the only ones doing the fostering...

Brian said...

Thanks. Your note clears up some of the issues. Regards,

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