Mar 31, 2009

Contributions may detract from Africa’s economy

by Christopher Scott

Celebrities like Bono and Oprah make their ambitions to end world poverty clear. Their selfless gifts and sacrifices for the betterment of humanity remain as an example to us all. One could say that if everyone were equally generous to the underprivileged, then world poverty would not be a problem. Or would it?

Dambisa Moyo is a native from the country of Zambia, she holds multiple Ivy League degrees and is the head of economic research and strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa. The New York Times nicknames her the “Anti-Bono,” because of her strong beliefs against foreign aid to Africa from celebrities.

“(Because of aid), you get the corruption — historically, leaders have stolen the money without penalty — and you get the dependency, which kills entrepreneurship,” Moyo said, according to the New York Times. “You also disenfranchise African citizens, because the government is beholden to foreign donors and not accountable to its people.”

Moyo argues that the Chinese financial structure has escalated from almost complete poverty to a form of stability without anyone’s help. She believes that the Chinese defeated their problems without any assistance from countries like America.

“Forty years ago, China was poorer than many African countries. Yes, they have money today, but where did that money come from? They built that, they worked very hard to create a situation where they are not dependent on aid,” Moyo said.

From a fundamental perspective, Moyo’s argument holds a great deal of respectability. It has long been known that the spirit of capitalism is doused by foreign dependencies.

However, the problems in Africa are somewhat different than the problems in China. The continent is stricken with poverty and disease due to a great many environmental factors and historical factors that simply do not exist in China. The recent civil wars in democratic republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Burundi have untold economic consequences, and reflect a turbulence that has long existed in the culture of Africa.

In addition to this, the western world has burdened Africa with things like agricultural subsidies, which cost sub-Saharan Africa $302 million in 2001-2002 alone, according to Oxfam International, an anti-poverty organization.

History shows that agriculture is the cornerstone of economic advancement in the developing countries. Consider the United States evidence of that. At one point, the American working class was mostly agriculturally based, but by means of the industrial revolution, America became an urban society.

“Many human health and environmental problems might be remedied with proceeds from growth in the agricultural sector. For instance, developing countries would have more funds to provide safe water sources, every year, 2.5 million people perish from dysentery and other intestinal diseases due to lack of clean drinking water,” Max Borders said in a National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) article.

There are many complications that surround the economic well-being of the country of Africa. Moyo makes a good point that money should not just be thrown indiscreetly to solve the problem. However, contrary to Moyo’s view, foreign aid should not be withheld altogether. Organizations like DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa), purpose to move the focus of foreign help from “aid to trade,” which genuinely encourages African entrepreneurship, according to the DATA Web site.
With the passing of the stimulus bill, The United States’ market is currently in the process of receiving outside intervention. If the government refrained from intervening in our current market, economists predict that it would face certain and complete failure. African nations are in the same rut and will continue in their cycle of economic despair without outside intervention.

An organization called Africa Aid uses relationships with American universities to “foster collaboration that unites research with real-world development.”

“From the most rural village to the highest level of government, Africa is a continent brimming with untapped potential and unrealized opportunity,” the Africa Aid vision statement states. “Though the challenges are many and the barriers to overcome are high, ranging from disease epidemics that span the continent to families unsure of where income for their next meal will come, Africa Aid believes that a world abundant in resources and innovation can work alongside African communities to effect long-term, sustainable change in Africa.”

There are many things that can be done to change the situation in Africa. Contrary to Moyo’s stance, the worst thing to do with the realization of starving children and suffering families is absolutely nothing. Celebrities like Oprah and Bono set an example for all of us to at least do something.

Contact Christopher Scott at


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