Is aid really the solution to Africa's problems? - U2 Feedback

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Old 06-06-2005, 09:36 AM   #1
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Is aid really the solution to Africa's problems?

I remain to be convinced by the arguments of Bono, Geldof etc, and the Make Poverty History campaign. Can we be satisfied that Africa has got rid of corruption in its political classes? It is this corruption factor, more than anything else, that has Africa in the mess it's in, in my view.

Charity begins at home, I believe. U2 don't even pay taxes in their own country. I pay more income tax than Bono and I don't earn a lot.

Having said all that I fully agree with moves to liberalise trade and allow developing countries access to our markets.

As for the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy, I say :- dismantle it.

Thoughts?
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Old 06-06-2005, 09:45 AM   #2
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Throwing money at Africa is how rich, Western nations feel better about themselves. And the only reason we even care about Africa is because we're afraid of getting AIDS from them; so, really, I'd say that most of the emphasis on Africa is latently self-serving.

Our real attitudes on Africa boil down to economics: when Africa is plunged in political chaos or a nation is seized by a dictator, we frankly don't care, because they are strategically and economically insignificant. But Iraq...oh well, now it turns into the end of civilization as we know it, if we don't "liberate" them!

As it stands, I find most political attitudes towards Iraq to be condescending, at least and self-serving, at best. In fact, blaming all of Africa's problems on AIDS is mainly a device to absolve the Western world from guilt. After all, their crumbing infrastructure, lack of sanitation, etc. is all because of AIDS! Yeah right.

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Old 06-06-2005, 09:49 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
And the only reason we even care about Africa is because we're afraid of getting AIDS from them;
Well I'm not sure about that. Anyway, what's wrong with enlightened self interest?
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Old 06-06-2005, 10:05 AM   #4
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I agree with you on the corruption. Even if we were responsible for putting some of the dictators in place, there's still no point in giving them money. I do think increasing aid/dropping debt in those countries with a transparent democratic process is beneficial. Not only in helping that particular country, but in proving the benefits of democracy to other countries.

I feel your pain about the tax thing...if U2 paid all the taxes they've been exempt from for the past 20 years, you all could probably revamp your entire public education system or something.
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Old 06-06-2005, 10:21 AM   #5
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Originally posted by VertigoGal
I feel your pain about the tax thing...if U2 paid all the taxes they've been exempt from for the past 20 years, you all could probably revamp your entire public education system or something.
Thanks for your response. On the tax thing, it's not a major gripe of mine. It wasn't as though U2 lobbied for it or anything, as it was introduced before they made it big.

But equally I don't see Bono out there making pronouncements arguing for it to be amended. Some might see his stance as hypocritical. Granted, U2 have given a net benefit to the economy and certainly a huge cultural benefit.
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Old 06-06-2005, 10:27 AM   #6
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It seems like if enlightened self-interest fights a pandemic, it's not all bad. It might not be the loftiest of motives, but if it helps someone, why not?
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Old 06-06-2005, 10:45 AM   #7
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At the NE Anglican AIDS conference last fall....

Many groups came and presented their projects....

One of the founders of a project said very clearly that there was NO WAY around the corruption over there. That if there were an organization that was advertizing themselves to be such, that they were lying.

I liked his program because he works only with people he knows over there. He tries his best to make sure he has a personal relationship with the people in the community he is working.
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Old 06-06-2005, 10:52 AM   #8
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The corruption factor is such a huge myth. Africa's governance is poor because Africa is poor. I mean seriously, think about it.

Africans don't want aid forever. They want to be able to sustain themselves and climb up the development ladder, but the truth is, the way things are set up now they simply can't do it. The burden of debts, the fact that they can't trade in a free market, the fact that many are simply unable to sustain agriculture because they're dying from lack of a 20 cent immunization or clean water.....

The comment about charity beginning in the home....sure I can take that. But what's right is right...and that's universal. It's not a question of charity for what's going on in Africa to me at all...because the fact is that Africa wants to be equal to us and NOT have to rely on aid, but the way the situation is the rest of the world has them in a form of economic slavery.
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Old 06-06-2005, 10:57 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by starsgoblue
The corruption factor is such a huge myth. Africa's governance is poor because Africa is poor.
Not always. Nigeria has significant natural resources but its political classes have a history of corruption - Abacha, etc. I'm not saying this applies to other countries there.
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Old 06-06-2005, 11:18 AM   #10
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Everything seems to always come back to the idea of corruption and misrule. Let's try to think how it got to that state and what responsibility people besides Africans have as creating that. Western officials argue all the time that Africa simply needs to behave itself and allow market forces to operate without interference by corrupt rulers.

Western government enforced budget polices in Africa during the 80s and 90s. The IMF and World Bank nearly virtually ran the economic policies of the the African continent, usually through what was called 'structural adjustment programs'. These programs had very poor results and not much merit. By the begginging of the 21st century, Africa was even poorer than during the 1960s, when the IMF and World Bank first came to the scene.

The West should be more thoughtful of its own hand in some of Africa's situation: three centuries of slave trade, followed by colonial rule that left Africa void of a basic infrastructure and educated citizens, and the fact that Africa was used as a pawn in the Cold War.

This is my main point though. Criticizing Africa's governance is backwards. Even placing the blame fully on Western meddling isn't totally accurate either. Politics simply can't explain away Africa's prolonged economic crisis. There have been well governed African countries such as Ghana, Mali and Senegal that have failed to prosper, while definete corupt countries in other parts of the world such as Bangladesh have had accelerated economic growth. There is many factors involved here in Africa's plight....but just throwing up your hand and saying that the whole continent is corrupt and it'd be a waste to try and help isn't right.
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Old 06-06-2005, 11:30 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by financeguy
Well I'm not sure about that. Anyway, what's wrong with enlightened self interest?
Because our self interest is not solving their problems. Our "solution" is to pump them full of anti-HIV drugs, while ignoring their ineffectual governments and lack of infrastructure. Exposure to raw sewage and malaria will destroy an immune system just as effectively as HIV. Hell, even their malnutrition mirrors the lipodystrophy of anti-retroviral drugs.

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Old 06-06-2005, 12:28 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by starsgoblue
The corruption factor is such a huge myth. Africa's governance is poor because Africa is poor. I mean seriously, think about it.
Please explain why it is a myth? It either is or it isn't. When I meet with people who run organizations and travel there multiple times throughout the year admitting there is corruption, then why would it be a myth.

It is reality...there may be reasons for the reality, but that doe not make it a myth.
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Old 06-06-2005, 01:36 PM   #13
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I don't think corruption there is "a myth." Certainly some people convince themselves the entire continent is corrupt to make themselves feel better about doing nothing, even in transparent countries. But on the flipside, to say there is no corruption doesn't seem right.
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Old 06-06-2005, 01:57 PM   #14
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Corruption isn't the root....poverty is. Like I said before, Africa's governance is poor because Africa is poor. The whole economic problem there is a lot more complicated than just that ...Like I also said earlier there is plenty of example of corrupt countires in other parts of the world that have had rapid growth...
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Old 06-06-2005, 05:03 PM   #15
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I will try to find some time to enter this discussion personally, but until then, here is what DATA says about development assistance to Africa and how the programs that DATA has helped to develope with the Bush administration and which has been passed by Congress (but which remain WOEFULLY UNDERFUNDED) like PEPFAR and the MCA directly funnel monies into programs and governments in Africa who will use the money in prudent ways to help their people.

So a lot of the discussion is is made a bit mute because The ONE Campaign and other organizations (like Oxfam) who are doing the bulk of the advocacy work for Africa are ALREADY ADRESSING YOUR CONCERNS.

Here is the page from the DATA site:

The Development Assistance Crisis

Millions of people in Africa, and elsewhere around the world, depend on financial support from wealthy governments, the United Nations, and private organizations to provide basic necessities they cannot afford such as clean water, health care, textbooks and food. In the best cases, this assistance helps communities become more independent — so that in the long run, they won't need to rely on handouts. Too often, though, development assistance has been wasted, ineffective or given for the wrong reasons. As a result, “aid” has become a dirty word to some people. But effective aid, or development assistance, is one of the best investments we can make — in the lives of others and in our own future. We can do it better and we must do more of it.

Back in 1970, wealthy nations agreed that 0.7% of the money their countries made in a year (or Gross National Product — GNP) would be a fair amount to share with poor countries. That doesn’t sound like very much, but the richest nations aren’t even halfway to that target. Overall, they gave just 0.25% of national wealth for development assistance in 2003. Only five countries have reached the 0.7% target — Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The U.S., the world’s richest country, gives the smallest percentage of its wealth, 0.14%, to poor countries.

So what is development assistance trying to achieve? Is it just a bottomless pit? No. In 2000, world leaders committed to a set of concrete ‘Millennium Development Goals’ for all poorer countries — halving poverty, fighting AIDS, giving all children the chance to go to school and every person access to clean drinking water, among other things. But two-thirds of the poorest countries which are off-track and very unlikely to meet these goals are in Sub-Saharan Africa (that portion of Africa which is located south of the Sahara Desert).

The United Nations has estimated that Africa will need more than twice what it receives today in development assistance in order to reach these goals by 2015. But simply pouring more money is not the answer. In order to truly help Africa—and in order to make sure taxpayers’ money is not wasted—the quality of development assistance has to be improved as the quantity goes up. For example, much of the money given by rich countries to poor countries is actually ‘tied’ to the interests of rich government. This means that poor countries have to spend a portion of the money buying goods and services from the country that gave it, rather than giving them the option to shop around for the best value for money. This reduces the quality of much foreign aid considerably. One World Bank survey estimated that ‘tied’ aid was 20% less effective than untied aid. Studies also show that aid is also more effective if it is “country-owned”. This means that the recipient countries should be deciding how to spend the money for themselves after consulting with their citizens, especially the poorest groups.

WHAT MUST HAPPEN


The quantity of aid needs to be increased so that no country with clear and accountable plans lacks the necessary resources to provide basic health care or education. In particular, special emphasis must be placed on increasing resources for the fight against HIV/AIDS.


Funding the Millennium Development Goals means that we have to increase the current global amount for development assistance to an extra $75 billion a year. Governments need to make rapid progress towards 0.7 percent to reach this sum.


The quality of aid needs to be improved by ending the practice of “tied” aid that can only be spent on goods and services that come from wealthy nations. The quality can also be improved through better coordination amongst donor countries and by including groups which represent the poorest people in deciding how increased aid is spent.


Pledges that have been made to increase both the quantity and quality of assistance, like the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account, must be supported and fully funded.
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