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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sometimes the truth sneaks out despite the best efforts of self-righteous do-gooders to bury it alive

Kenyan economist blames aid for Africa famine

This might seem counterintuitive to those people who grew up in privileged societies with rule of law, material plenty, and democratic governance. But the history of aid in Africa, viewed empirically, has never alleviated famine except in the very short term. Aid to the Third World is often stolen, bartered for weapons, used as a means of control over the starving poor, or simply left to rot on the docks.

The Kenyan economist highlights another problem, the culture of dependency and corruption aid to Africa often creates.

"When aid money keeps coming, all our policy-makers do is strategize on how to get more," said the Kenya-based director of the Inter Region Economic Network, an African think tank.

"They forget about getting their own people working to solve these very basic problems. In Africa, we look to outsiders to solve our problems, making the victim not take responsibility to change."

Moving the aid can be nightmare in itself. Africa's good roads are few, and often pass through the front lines of civil wars. But Shikwati notes an additional problem: Even African countries that have food to spare can't easily share it because tariffs on agricultural products within sub-Saharan Africa average as high as 33 percent, compared with 12 percent on similar products imported from Europe.

"It doesn't make sense when they can't even allow their neighbors to feed them. They have to wait for others in Europe or Asia to help," he said. "We don't have any excuses in Africa. We can't blame nature. We have to tell our leadership to open up and get people producing food."

Nature, of course, does bear some of the blame. Recurring drought is a part of life in Africa. Farmers have learned to cope, but exploding population growth sucks up water, pasture and livestock.

Many food crises result from bad government and civil wars. For 30 years after winning independence from France, Niger was ruled by coup and military dictatorship. Now it's a peaceful multiparty democracy, but its desert is getting bigger and drought is unrelenting.

7 comments:

Sharon said...

That's why I really thought nothing of the latest Live Aid concert. Seemed like a bunch of well-meaning but largely ignorant rock stars acting as if their proposed solution ("wipe out 3rd world debt!" "send aid now!") wasn't old & busted.

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