The problem with Africa
on A Zambian Experience (Zambia), 18/Jul/2011 19:00, 34 days ago
So David Cameron is in Africa today telling the world how Africa is in need of free trade agreements rather than foreign aid.I wonder what made him decide upon this‘fresh thinking’ idea, as people have been campaigning for an African Free Trade Agreement for decades, but still nothing has been done. Maybe he has woken up to the fact that aid just isn’t working, as it is often viewed as the instrument for keeping corrupt unaccountable governments in powerand in extreme wealth, rather than reaching the millions of poor who desperately need the support.Take a recent high profile aid case in Malawi where it was reported that the President of Malawi has kicked out British Diplomats, after they got upset that he had spent British aid money on a brand new private jet whilst the majority of his people are still living in extreme poverty.In cases like this, the West is often seen as the mother figure blaming its child‘Africa’ for not spending its pocket money wisely. Then when ‘Africa’ throws its toys out of the pram in protest, the West then complains how ungrateful its spoilt child is.I hate to say it, but maybe Cameron’s right? Rather than wasting time and money complaining about mis-spent aid in Africa, perhaps its time for an era of partnership through trade agreements rather than a system that upholds donor dependency? After all Cameron recognises that ‘trade will save far more lives and do far more good’according to BBC.reportsStatistics show that despite trillions of Dollars, Pounds and Euros being spent on Africa each year, the continent still contains the worlds poorest people, including Zambia (currently ranked 164 out of 170 poorest countries in the world) .As a fundraising advisor in Zambia, I continue to question the role of donor funding in creating sustainable development as I have seen that the most effective development has been where ordinary Africans have made their own money through job and business opportunities, education, trade and export opportunities. My African colleagues don’t want handouts, they just want governments to be held accountable and create opportunities that so many people in the West take for granted, such as free trade, good road networks, access to cheap banking services and prosperity through Entrepreneurship.However, the BBC has already confirmed that Cameron’s African trip will be cut short as Downing Street has reported that the UK Prime Minister currently has ‘other things he wishes to focus on’. I’m assuming that those ‘other things’ relate to dealing with the phone hacking scandal along with investigating his own alleged ‘corrupt’institutions . So when Cameron goes back to the UK to sort out a few important domestic affairs, perhaps his development advisors should continue to remind him that he shouldn’t forget the issue of ‘Africa’ otherwise Mama West could face another toy being hurled at her face.David Cameron’s visit to Africa follows recent short visits by the US Foreign Secretary and the US First Lady, which clearly shows that Western leaders once again are desperately trying to solve the historic ‘Problem with Africa’. Whilst they jet across the Sahara in an attempt to refocus on the African Agenda, millions of people in Africa are still dying each day.Sadly I’ve experienced the reality of funerals here and it’s not as glamourous as the Comic Relief films will show. The majority of people who die here in Zambia are ordinary young hardworking people who aren’t typically waiting for the next western plane to fly in with food and clothes, they are people who just don’t have access to good healthcare or who are short of cash as they’ve spent it caring for sick relatives. I wonder how many more lives have to be lost til this finally gets sorted?