Africa has Problems

Today two news-items high-light Africa. The world food price crisis and a UN mission to investigate various African wars (Somalia, Congo, Sudan). Mostly we try to focus on the (greater) Caribbean region, but to an extent our today’s comment reflects on our region as well. We cannot escape the conclusion: Africa has problems. It is time to analyze them with an open mind to see if anything can be done to improve the lot of the people. We should not ignore facts for reasons of political correctness. That does not help the people.

Today’s video is a plea by Sierra Leone Minister of Foreign Affairs for aid in tackling the rising world food price crisis. The AVAAZ organization has launched a campaign to aid Africa by directing a petition to the UN, reading: ‘We call on you to take immediate action to address the world food crisis by mobilizing emergency funding to prevent starvation, removing perverse incentives to turn food into bio-fuels and managing financial speculation, and to tackle the underlying causes by ending harmful trade policies and investing massively in sustainable agricultural productivity in developing nations’.

The petition is OK, but ...

We have signed the petition and agree that aid should be given. But we cannot help feeling dissatisfied. When viewing today’s video one wonders where the money will end up this time. So often donations to African, South American and Caribbean governments (and now also in Burma, for instance) do not reach the people. They end up in the pockets of politicians (in Burma, for instance, a portion of the recent food aid was distributed among army personnel; the soldiers have to eat too, but the aid was destined for the hardest hit people). God give that this time will be different in Africa. But there is nothing to convince us it will.

Yes, we should help once again. But aid without any attention to Africa’s serious internal problems should not continue. The economies of these countries should be built up from bottom up, not from top down. Direct investment in industrial and agricultural projects in Africa, South America and the Caribbean, especially if ownership of these projects is spread among the workers themselves, will in the long run do much more than emergency food aid.

Analyze the problem and formulate a credible development strategy

National sovereignty should no longer be an obstacle, if it turns out to be the problem. We know we are treading on thin ice here. But the truth be told. What is sovereignty to the people, if they are always hungry and have to emigrate for survival? It’s like our friend José (pseudonym) told us in Cuba: ‘I was all for socialism, but I’m hungry. Therefore, I don’t believe in socialism anymore’. We use a pseudonym, because the Cuban regime is repressive. So there’s hunger and repression. People are even afraid to say they’re hungry!

Most Africans (and Caribbeans) were all for independence 30 years ago. But the young people are leaving their countries by the millions to seek a better life abroad. What then is the point of independence? We are not suggesting a re-colonization of the entire African continent. But there may be other solutions. Federalism as a development model, for instance. Whatever solutions we find, sovereignty is not more important than the welfare of the people. An honest debate is called for. The West could do more, for sure. But Africa and the Caribbean should also own up.