A Paper Presented at the Workshop on The Treasure of the Titanic: Choices for a North-South Movement of Tomorrow, Gent, Belgium, November 19, 1994.
It may sometimes be necessary to cut off the hand that feeds you; if it stops you from feeding yourself.
- Malcolm X
For several reasons, this paper will undoubtedly distress many people. Of three of these, I am quite sure:
I plead guilty for the reasons that on things African, I am neither dispassionate nor objective - I am involved, very much involved. Physically, Africa is separated from Europe by a tiny strip of land and water. However, the cultural gulf between the two continents is enormous. I doubt very much if there are other people in the world who misunderstood one another as much as Africans and Europeans. The relationship between the two people is oftentimes marred by mutual suspicion, if not outright antagonism. To the European, the African is an unfathomable mystery. The African, on the other hand, see the European as an opaque mirror, a sort of optical illusion - the more you see, the less you understand.
There is little doubt that colonialism and slavery played a big role in this mutual mis-understanding. Sadly, western scholarship\leadership which still tries to justify the historic crimes of Europe against Africa, continue to maintain the distortions. As European history books often tells it, African history run thus:
Africans were living in total darkness in their 'dark-continent.' The continent was a vast badlands, where the most rudimentary technologies were yet to be discovered. Naked men and women, incapable of thought which have nothing to do with food and sex, were swinging from treetop to treetop, eating wild-berries and rodents. Europeans, on the other hand, were at the pinnacle of civilization; arts and sciences blossomed. People were living in big mansions with all modern amenities. Theaters and museum were packed full. The Europeans then chanced upon the less-endowed members of the human race, their christian hearts fell, and they decided to help. They then took upon themselves the black man's burden. They lifted the Africans to the level of their own civilization. They Built churches and universities and created a self-sustaining societies for them and, leaving them in charge, they departed - their altruistic mission accomplished. And look what happened. Within thirty years, the barbaric Africans have created a gigantic mess - Europeans again to the rescue! There may still be many people in Europe who believe this piece of 'mythory.'
Conversely, many Africans, at least Continental Africans, still see Europe as a paradise on earth - thanks to the colonial education and the massive western propaganda which tends to support these distortions. John Wayne and James Bond movies were great tools in portraying the historical misconceptions about Europe. If the European still think of the African as a dog, a beast of burden; the African still regard the European as a god. The dream of most Africans is to go to the 'mother country' where life is said to be easier. When the sad reality dawn on Africans who believed and came, the result is cynicism on everything European.
To most African immigrants, Europe is very opaque. Here we are, having left our countries because the Structural Adjustment Policies, foisted on African countries by Western-institutions, like the IMF and the sadly-misnamed World Bank, and political destabilisation of our land by western agents, have made living a meaningful life all but impossible in our countries. What do we have in return?
Western countries continue to send over-compensated 'developmental-experts' to our countries to, they say, impart some obscure knowledge, that will lift us from our economic doldrums and bring us to the promised land. There are said to be over eighty-thousand 'aid-workers' in Africa today, probably more than the civil servants needed to maintain the colonial administrations - the WEST AFRICA magazine gave a figure of over 100,000. Little wonder then that we hear the remarks that Africa has been successfully re-colonized.
To all intent and purposes, Africa has been recolonized. Instead of colonial administrators, we now have missionaries, aid-workers, IMF strategists and World Bank Consultants. As anyone who have been to the continent and see these valiant men\women at work will attest, the aid-workers are still behaving like the Lords of the lands, just like the old colonialists. They propound and forced policies on African governments. Backed by their mass-media, financial institutions and governments, the aid-agents continue to pursue policies that were designed to suit the interests of Euro-America - financial, political, economic, emotional, psychological or whatever. The same way that Africans were excluded at Berlin when their continent was sundered, Africans are being excluded when decisions are made on what projects to site in their land, even though it is their fate that is being decided, and it is them who pay the ultimate price.
It is only when the projects fail that we start to hear that things are going wrong in Africa because Africans are too corrupt, or too clannish, or that our governments are too despotic.
These are genuine problems, no doubt. But they appear to me as symptoms of the structural problems besetting Africa rather than the causes. I do not believe that African politicians are more corrupt than their Italian, Japanese and American counterparts. And it is debatable whether Nigerians are more clannish than, say, Belgians.
Most galling of all is the idea of Europeans who go to Africa maintaining that they are helping us. As the saying goes, 'Beware of the saints, whose charities pay their salaries.' These people are commanding salaries and emoluments far beyond their qualification and competence, yet all we hear are how much they are suffering for our cause! For such a fantastic salary that is paid by these aid-agencies, I also won't mind some hardship.
The most perplexing question for most of us is, 'How could the people responsible for our woes turn around and be claiming to be helping us? We live in Europe where we are not welcome, and made constantly to feel unwelcome, yet we see Europeans putting their hands on their chests boasting about how much they love us!
Parliaments across Europe are busy passing laws making it virtually impossible for us to stay in Europe, yet Europeans are rushing to Africa to help us. Show us some benevolence when we sojourn in your land, then we will start to believe your claims of helping us! As an African, who has taken some time to study the European model of development and the traditional African model, I reject the current Western-concept of economic development-aid to Africa in its entirety. I offer the following arguments:
The problem of Africa, I believe, is neo-colonialism. And what does these 'aids' do but foster and nurture economic and political dependency? How is the African expected to grow normally when from infancy unto death, there is a white hand lending help? To use the analogy of a child: would a child grow into a normal adult, independent and self-confident, if the parents are constantly at its beck and call? Would a child make a headway in life, if its supposed parents are constantly sabotaging all its efforts, as Euro-Americans are doing in our land?
It is sad, but what most of western aid has done is to turn the African into a dependent, grovelling child, with little self-respect and faltering self-confidence. Many Africans have lost their self-esteem; they no longer believe that they could survive without aid! Sadder still is the fact that even most of the present crop of African leaders have also lost confidence in their own people; they no longer believe that their own people can do without so-called aid. Aid could sometimes be demoralizing, and demoralized people are incapable of developing anything. Please rescue me if I am wrong.
A simple dictionary definition of 'aid,'s is 'to give support.' What support is western aid to Africa giving, when all that it does is to render the recipients useless, and reduced them to sub-human levels? You don't give support to people when you have to strip them of their human dignity to do so.
Some people like to say that Africa is poor, that it is a hopeless case. This is another misconception. Africa, as a continent, the second largest of the world's continents, is the richest in terms of mineral resources. We have to ask how the best-endowed of the world's continents could be described as 'poor.' Africans are poor, and they are living in great poverty, there is no doubt about that. The question this provoked is: 'How did the owners of the world's most resource-rich continent come to be the world's basket case?' When we can properly answer this all-important question, we can then start to give correct medication. This, I believe is the most problematic part, since it will raise a lot of questions which Western leaders\scholars would rather not discussed.
My other argument is that historically, no country that I know has been developed by charity, or 'economic-aid.' Perhaps I am being cynical, but I believe also that none shall ever be. Africa cannot be developed by Europeans or any other foreign 'aid-workers,' however well-meaning and well-intentioned. Africa can only be developed by Africans, using their intellect to harness their resources to solve their problems of economic woes. The great empires of Africa (Ethiopian, Nubian, Egyptian, Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Zimbabwe) were built by Africans. It is when Africans and Europeans fully realized this that we can start to make headway.
Africans have to find original solutions to their peculiar problems. They have to be the initiators, and not the followers, of development plans. The environment whereby Europe is saturating African with aid-agents, cannot but destroy the Africans' self-confidence. All the half-baked ideas of European aid-agencies, for the past thirty or so years, have resulted only in colossal failures. Or would someone tell me where they could point to as their success story in Africa.
In December 1992 through January 1993, I travelled through West Africa and observed some of these aid-workers in action. Needless to mention that they were almost all white people. It was as though the only qualification to become an 'expert' is the color of one's skin. The only charitable thing I can say is that the fellows I met are just mis-guided.
In Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, I saw them rushing from one conference to the other, in their giant Toyota jeeps. The same was the case in Niamey, Niger. Tooling around the dusty sahel in their big wagons, wining and dining at hotels where food prices look like telephone numbers, one cannot but accused these aid-workers of sanctimonious hypocrisy. With salaries plus emoluments, that dwarfs the GDP of many small African nations, it is difficult to see what the aid-workers are developing apart from their bank accounts. One must truly be cynical to live such an opulent life-style among the most materially-deprived peoples in the world.
If the aid-agents know what they are supposed to be developing in Africa, perhaps we can start to argue. But, do they? I doubt this very much. From what I saw on the ground, the agencies have divided up the continent, each one jealously guarding its own little turf. The result is complete incoherence - the right hand does not know what the left is doing, and vice versa. The good effects on one group is being constantly undermined by the actions of another group. While the western aid-agencies are engaged in their bureaucratic warfare Africa continues to sink deeper into wretchedness.
And should one argue that the NGOs are doing a good job, we then have to ask what good job they are doing that the policies of western institutions like IMF and the World Bank are not destroying? If as it is often argued that the NGOs are operating on the MICRO level, and that their efforts are directly benefiting the ordinary folks. This is fanciful. The ordinary folks still operate under the MACRO policies of the national government, policies which, as I've mentioned earlier, are still being foisted on Africa by the IMF and the World Bank. Could the Africans ever win? There is, of course, the whole concept of 'development.' It is apparent that to these western aid-workers, development means turning Africa into another Europe. At a village in Burkina Faso, I spoke with some of these aid-workers. The group was busy installing a water machinery. Some consultant had recommended it because the women of the village are spending long hours to fetch water. The machine would alleviate their sufferings. A good thing, indeed. But when I asked them what they expect the women to be doing with the time they will have on their hands when the machine is installed, they had no answer. They have not consider that angle. I then suggested that they should consider looking for psychologists and therapists, who will soon be needed to take care of the women who will be suffering from boredom, as people in Europe do.
To the Euro-American aid-workers, there is no alternative to the Euro-American model of development. To them, every ailment could be solve by mechanical means. Crops are failing, no problem, throw in more machinery and more fertilizer. This anti-holistic philosophy of development is, I believe, at the root of the failures registered by all the so-called developmental assistance, at least in Africa. The assumption that Africans would like to become Europeans is, I believe, at the minds of these aid-agents. Since the aid-agencies have become a self-perpetuating bureaucracy with vested interests, it is difficult to make them see reason. Europe is difficult enough to live in, why create another one?
It should be clear to those who bother to look that Europeans measure civilization with a different parameters than Africans. In Europe, people are as important as their bank accounts. So, if we talk of GNP and GDP, Africa is a hopeless case. But should we continue to define human civilization by consumerism? Isn't it time new parameters are designed to measure 'success?' In Africa, things are connected in more ways than the Euro-Americans, with all their university degrees, could ever fathom. You have to be very careful that you do not create worse problem, while solving another one, that may appear totally unrelated.
Do all these mean that there is no meeting-ground between African activists and Western NGOs, or that there is nothing Western NGOs could do to help? Am I saying that they should throw up their hand and give up the fight? No, that is not what I am saying. For a starter, the NGOs should try to listen more and talk\do less. There are many Africans who live in Europe who could have some input into their deliberations and policy-making? Why are we not been consulted? After-all it is our fate that is being determine. If our brethren in Africa could be dismissed as illiterates, the majority of us in Europe could not be so easily waived off. Why are we not being asked? Why are African experts not being sent to Africa? Why are Europeans not listening to African experts in Europe?
We could find the answer in the neo-colonial relationship that still exist between Africa and Europe. Europeans believe that they know everything better than the Africans. We still find this condescension even among those who claim to be liberals and claim to be above board. Is there a need to consult when you believed that you have all the answers?
It is a sad commentary on the part of those who professed to love Africa, that I have to write angry polemics to get invited to a discussion on Africa. It is sadder still that more Africans were not invited. There are more capable African than myself, whose input\contribution would be far greater, more meaningful and more enriching than anything I could say. They didn't get invited, I presume, because they didn't write angry letters to newspapers. I would wish that the NGOs operating in Africa will liaise more with Africans. It is true that many of us do turn down invitations to join organizations formed by Europeans. The main reason is that we resent being continually led. We take offense at being treated like perpetual under-sixteens. Why are Africans not taken seriously until they put a European forward as their spokes-person? Why can't Africans speak for themselves and be taken seriously? Why are we not being supported when we set up our own organizations and our own agendas?
I ask all these because I know of many initiatives Africans have taken in Holland, where I live. They all floundered because of lack of support, especially finance. Whereas Europeans who organized things for Africa receive generous grants and subsidies, and media coverage, Africans are regarded as jokers whenever they try to organize. Why?
There are lot of things I believe that Europeans, especially those that professed a love for Africa, can do to help the cause of alleviating poverty in Africa. Foremost among these, is they should become more PRO-ACTIVE, instead of reacting to tragedies. Instead of throwing good money after bad ones, I suggest the following practical ways the aid-agents can help to make Africa liveable for Africans, so that Africans will stop dreaming about migrating to Euro-America, and the aid-workers can come back home to rest their tired bones!
Over the years, European governments have treated Africa as they did during the period of colonialism. Stooges were installed whose sole purpose was to protect European interests. These vassals are prepared to brutalize their own people in the interests of Euro-America. Recently, French President Mitterand said that France has stopped organizing coups in Africa. Welcome as this was, he didn't tell us the untold hardship French and European interventions have caused the continent. The agonies suffered by Africans at the hands of these European-installed dictators went unmentioned, un-atoned for. I don't know if Mitterand was expecting Africans to start vibrating with gratitude! If France got out of the coup-organizing business, has the American CIA or the British M16 stopped their covert and overt activities in Africa? Apparently still suffering from colonial hangover, European politicians still keep preaching to African governments on the political and economic path to trod.
Even when all the evidence we have pointed to the simple fact that over a quarter of century of European prescription, the economies of Africa still remain in depression, Euro-American scholars\leaders are still prescribing solutions!
The sad truth is that almost all African countries have long lost their sovereign rights to determine their economic and political future. The IMF and the World Bank have taken over the management of several African economies. Little wonder then that Tanzanian elder statesman, Julius Nyerere, dubbed the IMF 'International Ministry of Finance.' There is hardly an African country that has not been pursuing a punishing IMF-imposed 'Structural Adjustment Policies,' for about a decade. Africans, sadly, continue to get the blame when these neo-colonial policies doesn't result in any appreciable growth to the local economy.
While IMF and World Bank 'experts' are prescribing economic solutions, Western politicians and Political Scientist are shouting themselves hoarse on the best political track for Africa. These 'solutions' are divined by people totally unaware of the realities of Africa. Many of them have never set foot on the continent. Western-style democracy have been promoted to the level of praxis, touted as the cure-all solution to Africa's ailments. It does not matter that these institutions are failing in Europe, Africa must adopt them. It matters little that Europeans are becoming apathetic about their political systems, Africans must be forced to adopt them.
Of course it a nice thing to have democracy and all that. But People in the West tend to take their institutions for granted. Western-styled democracy is working in Europe and America, fine, let's export it wholesale to Africa. The fact that Africa and Europe do not have the same socio-political history seems to matter little. The fact that a European politician can lose election and still survive, financially and physically, count for little. The fact that these democratic institutions are too expensive for poor countries are never taken into consideration.
Does democracy automatically translate into stable, progressive society? We have to ask how the 'Asian-Tigers' managed to survive without it. I hate dictatorship, mind you. All I try to say here is that because a system work in Europe does not mean that it will work in Africa, and vice versa. This is a lesson our helpers should try to understand.
On the economic front, the production of cash crops was promoted over food crops, with the twisted logic that heavily-subsidized Euro-American foods are cheaper. Euro-American farmers continue to enjoy export boom and higher living standards at the expense of the Africans, who must use their meagre resources to import Western foods. In the meantime, the prices of the so-called cash-crops are falling on the 'World-Market' - heavily dominated by Euro-American dealers.
Fairy-tales economics were imposed on Africa with the promise of a better life tomorrow. Nowhere in Africa has the people enjoyed the benefits of the voodoo-economics called Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP), forcibly foisted on them, by western institutions. Nowhere in Africa are people enjoying the paradise promised by the prophets of SAP.
Ghana is being touted as the new wonder-land, where IMF policies are working. If we use the amount of Mercedes Benzes on the streets as the measurement of progress, Ghana is doing real good. But if we use indices like actual national production and the level of general contentment, we have to sing another song. Ghana remain a consuming rather than a producing nation; ports are open to every description of goods. As Ghana national assets are being disposed off, and its indigenous firms going bankrupt under the relentless assault of imports, its productive forces are turning increasingly to speculation and trading instead of production. Many children in Ghana have stopped going to school because their parents are too poor to pay the fees. People are dying because they cannot afford hospital treatment. Education used to be free in Ghana, until the IMF and their quangoes came and put a stop to it. What type of future are we building when the majority of our children cannot afford education?
And while African countries have faithfully complied with their part of the bargain, the West's end of the deal remain unfulfilled. The promised Western investment, the magic wand that would transform Africa into a paradise, remains an illusion. The only thing Euro-America is doing was to continue what it has being doing for ages: extracting African minerals to feed its industries, and setting up Coca-Coal bottling companies and Mcdonald' outlets to turn Africans into Western-junks consuming junkies.
When the time come for the West to fulfil its half of the bargain, new 'conditionalities' are imposed. It is no longer enough to cut subsidies, devalue currencies to the point of inutility, 'democracy' and 'Human-Rights' become the new swan song! Africa must comply, or else!
Western NGOs could help by exposing the ill-effects of these policies. Sensitizing the governments and peoples of Europe to policies which are destroying lives in Africa is, in my humble opinion, better than sending 'development-experts' to Africa. Africans, I believe, are quite capable of taking care of themselves, if they are not saddled with neo-colonial hangovers.
While it is morally obligatory to honor debt commitments, it's morally indefensible to expect someone to starve to death in order to pay off debt, especially the dubious debt that Europe is demanding from Africa. This is exactly what Euro-America has been demanding of Africa. At the last count, Africa is said to be owing US$350 billion - close to the total GDP of the entire continent. The question I am forced to ask is where in Africa do we find projects worth that much money? Or are we to believe that corruption alone had consumed that staggering sum? Why are the poor people of Africa, being made to pay for debt contracted and wasted, by the mis-rulers, imposed upon them by western nations and, who were acting in consort with Western Multi-nationals?
Most African countries are paying in excess of 50% of their earnings to service debt. Let me illustrate with the case of Nigeria. The entire budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for fiscal 1993 was 112.1 billion naira ( about 7.4 billion). Out of this amount, 58.4 naira ( about 3.9 billion) was earmarked for servicing external debt. That's a whopping 52.1 percent! Nigerians, there are about 90 million of them, have to make do with about three point five billion guilders, while close to four billion guilders will be sent to Euro-American governments and banks. Nigeria is not unique; the story is the same in most of African countries.
Last year, Africa transferred close to US$10 billion to Western banks in debt-servicing alone. Little wonder then that someone said Africa is giving 'Marshall-Aid' to Euro-America. For the past decade or so, there has been a net transfer of money from Africa to Europe and America. Even at the height of their famine Ethiopia and Sudan were still paying back debt. How then do we explain the vaunted claims that Euro-America is helping Africa?
The debt problems have to be tackled with more vigor. If the NGOs really care about Africa, they should apply pressure on their governments to cancel these debt which, according to Castro, are mathematically, economically and politically unpayable. And if our so-called friends in the North do care, they can organize a boycott of banks that live fat on African miseries. A lot of them are still keeping their money in these loan-sharking institutions. A lot of African lives are being wasted in paying off these debts.
Most people in Europe are unaware of how the so-called 'Third-World Debt problem' personally harm them, it will be a good start if the NGOs could start organizing symposium and conferences to make the ordinary people become aware of the sad realities of the debt-burden.
Susan George of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam wrote an excellent book on the debt-burden titled, The Debt Boomerang. It is a book I believe everyone concerned with development aid should read. In summary, Susan George informed us that the so-called Third-World debt directly affect Euro-Americans in at least four different ways:
As anyone who drinks coffee and eat chocolate in Europe can attest, the prices are remarkably stable - that's when they are not 'goedkoop.' African farmers are slaving more and more, to get less and less for their products, the prices of which, determined in London, Chicago, Paris and New York, keep tumbling down! Production of coffee is a back-breaking job, as anyone who has been to a coffee farm can confirm.
In the Cote d'Ivoire revenue from cocoa exports dropped from CFA393 billion to just CFA200 bn between 1986 and 1988; but during the same period cocoa bean production rose from 664,000 to 740,000 tonnes. The situation looks set to continue. Already, private companies, which entered the product buying business as a consequence of IMF-inspired market reforms, are paying considerably less than the government-recommended producer prices (CFA200 per kilo for cocoa and CFA85 for coffee). Farmers say the firms are offering to pay them as low as CFA50 for cocoa and CFA20 for coffee.
(NEW AFRICA, February 1993. pp 28-29).
It has been said that the production of these products, which Africans are forced to produce for Western markets, is largely responsible for the general impoverishment in Africa. These so-called 'cash-crops' do not produce money for the producers. The commodities markets are controlled by Western dealers. The prices are determined by Western speculators. The peasant cocoa farmer, who worked the farm from dawn to dusk under intense sun, gets only 8% return. The African government receives about 17% in taxes and duties. The rest, a massive 75%, is appropriated by Western dealers. The same goes for other agricultural commodities, like coffee, whose production the poor African farmers are wasting their labor producing for Euro-America markets.
Each time the price of coffee or cocoa drop by a single cent, African farmers feel it immediately, how many Europeans will starve if coffee cost a cent more per pack?
Instead of sending 'development-aid,' NGOs could help by putting pressure on European governments to consider imposing a tax on the products Europeans are practically plundering from Africa. This could be called 'African-tax' or whatever. It shouldn't be beyond the competence of Eurocrats to set up the appropriate machinery for its implementation. This could also be done under the auspices of the United Nations.
The EU slap a 20% tariff on partially-processed coffee, cocoa and other products from Africa to guarantee the jobs in the coffee and cocoa processing industries in Europe. Africans will see appreciable progress in their lives if they could work their farms, process their products in their own industries, and find market for them in the consuming countries, without being penalized by Eurocracy.
As I mentioned earlier, neo-colonialism is at the root of Africa's problem. Africans are growing what they don't eat, and they eat what they don't grow. In both cases, foreigners are in control of our lives\destiny. Since it is impractical to ask Europeans to change their life-styles, the NGOs could help sensitize the European consumers to the plight of the producers of the commodities they are consuming and, in most cases, even wasting.
The saddest thing was that post-colonial African leaders, except for a few exception, made no attempt to change the institutions and structures they inherited from the colonial powers. This has been called the era of 'Missed-Opportunity.' Colonialism in most of Africa was simply replaced by a benevolent, if nonetheless hideous, neo-colonialism. Black faces merely replaced white faces. The ordinary people continue to be trampled upon by the jackboot of oppressor-regimes. Sadder still is the fact that African leaders who tried to break out of this neo-colonial strait-jackets were removed by western secret services - Nkrumah in Ghana; Lumumba in the Congo and, more recently, Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso.
There is no denying, or running away from the fact that most of the moronic dictators imposed on Africa by the Western Secret-Services are corrupt beyond redemption. According to the US magazine, National Enquirer (February 2, 1992 edition), African dictators are estimated to have stolen US$100 billion over 20 years! Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire is said to be worth about US$8 billion! Nigerians are said to have US$33 billion in Swiss banks - a sum close to the total external debt of the country.
Of course, this huge theft is known to Euro-American governments. But since the moneys are lodged in their banks and yielding taxes and interests for them, they made no attempt to expose it. This money rightly belong to Africa. US$100 billion is a huge sum by anyone's standard. That is money that could be utilize to ameliorate some of the problems that are forcing Africans to flee their countries and making it necessary for 'aid-agents' to go to Africa. It's this money that Euro-American banks are lending back to Africa at usurious rates. It is the interests on the loans, from money that rightly belong to them, that Africans are starving themselves to pay.
Western NGOs could make a big difference if they will help expose these crimes against the people of Africa. Europe should not be a safe heaven for looted African money. They should help us to find and repatriate the money back to their rightful owners. With US$100 billion, millions of jobs could be created, social amenities provided to make it attractive for people to want to stay in their countries.
Babangida was the general who brought Nigeria down economically, and almost succeeded in throwing the country into a war. He's now living in Germany. According to an official enquiry, during his eight plus years of mis-rule, about twelve billion dollars of Nigeria's oil revenue could not be accounted for. Why are the looters of our treasuries welcome in Fortress Europe? The victims of the crimes of the dictators who are welcome guests of European governments, are being shut out, while the criminals are given red-carpet treatment!
Could our friends in the NGOs do more to expose these colossal crimes against Africa? Could they help us get the bank account of these dictators and publish them? Could they help us take legal actions against those that looted our treasuries and lodge their loot in western banks? Could they help formulate plans which will result in these money being repatriated back to their rightful owners?
A situation whereby Western MNCs continue to pursue a policy of slash-grab-and-run cannot but result in African 'economic-refugees' escaping to Europe and European aid-agents going to Africa. Would it not be a good idea if the NGOs could put pressure on the bosses at the EU to pass legislation making it mandatory for Western MNCs to spend a certain percentage of their profits in the localities where such profits are derived? This money could be used to set up small-scale industries, build schools and set up hospitals.
Once again, I illustrate with the case of Nigeria.
Royal SHELL, the giant Anglo-Dutch oil company, called SHELL Petroleum Development Company in Nigeria, is the biggest exploiter of Nigeria's oil. Much of Nigerian oil is located in Ogoni land which spans three local government area in Rivers State. As one commentator put it: "For the Ogoni man whose homeland sits atop a vast expanse of crude oil deposit, life has become synonymous with washing with spittle while living by the riverside."
Not only has oil exploration devastated the Ogonis' land, SHELL hasn't deemed it fit to cite any social amenity there. A basic thing like electricity is unknown in this place which has produced billions of dollars in profits for SHELL. Needless to say that there are no industry of any description. The Ogonis are confronted with high pressure oil pipelines flagrantly laid without any consideration for the inhabitants - the people are not even consulted before the pipes are laid. SHELL understands only the language of exploitation, exploitation, exploitation.
The uncaring, inhuman activities of SHELL in Nigeria once prompted a Nigerian Minister to ask the pungent question: 'Is Shell a noun or a verb?' Shell, like most European Multi-nationals, are literally SHELLing the poor countries.
If European governments will encourage their MNCs to discover some sense of social responsibilities, and spend part of their huge profits to develop the areas they are exploiting, the need for people from those areas to migrate will be greatly reduced, so will the need to send 'development-aid.'
This is an area where I think the NGOs could be very useful. Since we all know that the Multinationals care about their PR, at least in the West, the NGOs could help publicize their nefarious activities in Africa. Due to the activities of anti-apartheid movements, SHELL was boycotted by several people in Europe, because of its support for the racist regime in South Africa. Nestle was also boycotted by several people over its baby-milk formula. Gladly, apartheid is over, but the super-exploitation of western MNCs in Africa continue unabated! Could the western NGOs take up the battle against the western MNCs?
There are some who say that guns do not kill, but I am among those who believe that they do. A lot of African lives are being wasted in pursuit of western geo-political and ideological interests. The cold-war was cold in Europe, but it was hot, very hot in Africa. Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique, Angola are all legacies of western ideological wars. There are no tangible arms industry in Africa (outside of Egypt and South Africa), somebody must be supplying the guns and the munitions. According to the Swedish peace Academy, about half a million Angolans have been permanently maimed by land mines, most of which were supplied by Italian firms and South African companies using European technologies!
Land mines are of little military utility - they are design to cause mayhem to the civil population and to disrupt normal lives. Every maimed African is an unproductive African. If our friends in the NGOs will start to organize to protest the shipments of munitions and military hardware to Africa, the continent will start to know a little peace, and people can be better engaged. It should not be too difficult to ferret out the addresses of the firms engage in the arms-trade.If Africans can know a little peace, they will channel their energies into producing foods for their families. How does one explain the situation whereby Euro-Americans purport to be helping us, while turning a blind eye to their governments brutal policies in Africa?
Africa is already saturated with weapons, why the need for more? Why can't European governments impose a ban on arms sales to the continent? Not only this, regimes that still rely on state violence should not be welcomed in Europe. It is hardly a secret that many of the African dictators spend their holiday in Europe, and their wives love to do their shopping there as well. Could our friends in the NGOs mobilize to stop European governments issuing visas to the Abachas, the Mobutus who make live impossible for their own people?
The situation whereby Euro-Americans rush to take sides in local dispute in Africa is also intolerable. Instead of rushing military assistance to their favored faction, why can't they use their 'good-offices,' to settle dispute? Europeans always try to settle their own problems through diplomacy, why the rush to settle ours with military muscles?
Those who have read John Stockwell's book, In Search of Enemies, will know the role the CIA played in the tragedy we know today as Rwanda and the 'civil-war' in Angola. Would it not be nice, if the NGOs could mobilize people to protest whenever a European government is sending military help to any African client-state? How good would it be if the same action taken against whaling ships are taking against ships that send arms to Africa?
Europeans celebrate every time an arm-industry is saved from bankruptcy by an arms-order from Africa. The next time they are asked to donate money to a relief-agency carrying the picture of a skeletal African, they are angered. It is then that they claim to be suffering from 'donor-fatigue.' Is it not time we turn our swords into plowshares? Is it not time the arms-industries of Euro-America are turn into something more productive? Is it not time the people of Euro-America see the relationship between their production of munitions and the wanton wastage of human lives across the world? Or am I being too romantic? Anthony Sampson in his book, 'The Arms Bazaar' clearly shows this relationship.
It is not only food that Africans do not produce, but rely on foreign imports, even the ideas that we use are imported. Sometimes in July this year, the U.S. embassy in Port-au-prince, the Haitian capital was forced to make a radio broadcast informing the people of Haiti that ,'streets in the United States of America are not paved with gold.' The simple truth is that many Africans still look towards Europe as a sort of paradise on earth, and their own societies as hell. They believe that the streets of Europe are paved with gold and diamonds. One can hardly blame them. They are victims of colonial education and powerful Western propaganda still promoting the fantasies of Europe full of roses, with no thorns.
If many of the Africans dreaming about migrating to Europe are told the sad realities in Europe, many will be shocked, and most will simply not believe them. It is a rather ironic that Europeans keep projecting the image of their continent as a rich, tolerant, civilized, caring, christian society, and when those who are swayed by these crude propaganda rushed to the paradise, they are asked what they are doing here! It is like asking the Conquistadors what they are doing in the fabled ELDORADO - searching for gold, of course.
Perhaps it the time for the NGOs to arrange for their governments to start sending the correct information materials about Europe to Africa. They should send materials where ordinary men and women are busy trying to make ends meet. They should try and show that it is an illusion that you can conjure up money from a wall with a plastic - you got to have put the money there before! This will be the most problematic since the ideology of neo-colonialism strives to show the best of Europe while belittling Africa. The NGOs are also carriers of the fantasies of a Europe where life is easier. How could Africans start to have the confidence to start repairing their lives, when all their energies are geared towards scraping enough fund to run away to Europe?
If the NGOs have been asking, they would have known that there are many qualified Africans (in various crafts and trades) who would like to go back to their homelands, but simply lack the means. It is simply impossible to expect such fellows who have invested considerable finance and energy in his\her education, to simply go back home and start to compete for non-available jobs.
The Dutch Minister of Development, Pronk, had an initiative which, unfortunately was not concretized. It was designed to give financial assistance to African experts who want to go back and settle among their own people. I think the western NGOs should liaise more with Africans to find out how they could help in this regard. My own calculations is that it will cost less than what is expended on a European aid-agent in three years to make and African go back FOR EVER. I personally know many Africans who will be eternally gratefully for this type of assistance.
To round up my main arguments, I do not know what to think when I see Europeans organizing events to help Africa. But I am not at all excited by all the pyrotechnics I see on television. No self-respecting man or people like to live on charities. The question we may ask is why are Europeans sending charities and aid-workers to Africa? What do they care?
The actions of European aid-workers could be liken to those of firemen who around setting fires to houses and, putting them out, shout, "See, what a splendid job we are doing?" Euro-American governments are setting fire to Africa - Angola, Mozambique, Somalia, Ethiopia, Euro-Americans aid-agents are rushing aid to the victims, should Africans be vibrating with gratitude?
Europeans will be helping Africa if they can persuade the government to stop messing up Africa. They should join hand with Africans in denouncing the western geo-political and ideological interests that are destabilizing and destroying African societies. In my humble opinion, all the European 'aid-experts' in Africa should be repatriated. The agencies that sent them should just declare a victory and celebrate their achievements. From birth to death Africans are never left alone by European do-gooders. There was the European missionary present at our birth, he baptized us (with a European name, of course), and purport to be ministering to our spiritual need (fancy that!). The Reverend Father was teaching us how idiotic we are to be worshiping the images of our gods; he then gave us the wooden or plastic image of his own god!
We grew up with European aid-workers trampling all over our lands, purporting to be developing us. We went to schools where European are teaching us how to hate ourselves and turn away from our culture - to become better Europeans. Our senses are daily assaulted by European music, art and culture. We were beaten for speaking our languages - it is barbaric, they told us! We're taught how to consume European foods, assume European mannerism and believe in Europe. By the time we grow up, we have become totally dependent on the European. This did not start yesterday, it has been going on for hundreds of years and, considering the way things are going it will continue forever.
What we have now is a situation whereby the African no longer belief in himself\herself and, more importantly, the European helpers have also come to belief that the African is incapable of taking care of himself - a case of aid fostering dependency fostering aid!
Pardon my cynicism, but why should I believe that Europeans are genuinely interested in the welfare of Africa? I have lived in Europe for about a decade, and each passing year, the lives of African immigrants is getting increasingly difficult. Africans are hardly welcomed in Europe, and everything is done to remind them that they are unwanted parasites. What then are we to think when we see Europeans going to our land, claiming to be helping us? Why can't Europeans start to show us some benevolence when we sojourn in their land?
The main ingredients for development are human and material resources. No one can doubt that Africa has got both in abundance. Africa is poor today because FOREIGNERS, in collaboration with the rapacious mis-rulers of our continent, are mis-managing our resources, under the pretense of helping us.
It is time that Africa is left alone. We are not mental or physical cripples who need constant attention and ministering. Even parents give their children a chance to develop on their own, otherwise they will remain babies. When are we going to develop our own abilities, if we are constantly been guided? We should be left alone to be ourselves. We are going to make mistake, no doubt, but we will learn from our mistakes, and be guided by them.
I don't believe that Africa has a problem that Africans cannot solve. Let Africa come of age. Let Africans regain their self-respect and dignity, then and only then can we show what we can do. The Asians are doing it, we also can, if our 'helpers' can take a back-stage, and let us show our mettle. A lot of us are not wasting our time away being 'happy, don't worry.' We are worried and we, definitely, are not happy.
Those who say that we blame the West for all our ills have to tell us why it is difficult for the west to leave Africa alone. What made Africa such a special case that Euro-America have to saturate it with helpers? Asia has been left alone. Today, many countries in that region of the world are making impressive progress. Malaysia, Indonesia and China are no longer being guided by Europeans. They are on their own, and I believe they are doing a good job of it. This, I know, will be a very difficult thing for Europeans to do. There are many who have built their fortune\ future and reputation on giving 'development aid' to Africa. My advice is that they should find something better to do with their time\life.
Do all these means that I am pessimistic about Africa? No, not at all. Despite all her current problems, I see enormous potentials. I do get a laugh whenever I say this. I am not being romantic about Africa - the usual accusation. But as I mentioned earlier, Africa has great resources. I also diagnosed the main problem as basically neo-colonialism. It as dawned on many of us that we are poor because our resources are being mis-managed by foreigners.
We are no longer thrilled by the helping hands of Euro-American 'experts.' A lot of us are now getting the technical knowledge to transform our societies when we return, as we certainly shall. Those who want to help us would be welcome, but then we will be setting our own agendas. We will no longer be the followers of some benevolent helpers, but we will become the instigators of real progress in our land.
My greetings to you all, and thank you for your time.