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To Help? or To Hinder?
March 10, 2009 6:16 AM   Subscribe

"The function of aid is not to make us feel better about ourselves; it is to promote development, and if a well-informed African tells us that we are inadvertently having the opposite effect, we had better take heed".
Time to stop aid for Africa? An argument against.

Despite receiving more than $1 trillion from the west over the last half century, Africa remains in dire economic straits. Dambisa Moyo thinks aid is to blame and should stop now. Hence Capitalism for Africa. To reduce poverty and create jobs, Africa must become economically competitive.
Aid in itself will not ensure sustainable development. Improving Africa's competitiveness will. (previously).
posted by adamvasco (78 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
It really just makes sense. It's the old "give a man a fish/teach a man to fish" dichotomy. The key here is to figure out why we've been giving so many fish rather than teaching people to fish, and it probably has to do with wanting to keep a monopoly on the fish market.
posted by explosion at 6:19 AM on March 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


But the core of her argument is that there is a better alternative. Governments could find money for development through financial markets, both international and domestic. Historically, the governments of those countries that have successfully developed funded investment by recourse to international markets. In order to borrow, they needed decent credit ratings; to get the ratings, they had to be transparent and prudent.

Right because financial markets work so well and never, never lead to corruption or to powerful elites to embezzling public money!

And what's great about her plan is that in no way would this international financier somehow benefit from governments needing to get money the financial markets, or create a lucrative market in her area of expertise! So there's no possible conflict of interest!

--

Obviously there are issues with Aide, but the idea that all African countries need to do is implement a perfectly transparent system so that they can get a good credit rating, then years later investment money will start flowing is absurd. You could easily get into a negative feedback cycle where the government is corrupt, so it gets no money, so it stays poor, so it stays poor and never develops an educated middle class, etc, etc.

Obviously a lot of research has been done on how to do aid, they're not just blindly throwing money around. And a lot of it is for medical help which doesn't provide much by the way of immediate financial payoff. On the other hand, obviously investment and financial development is important as well.

But the idea that free-market magic will solve all Africa's problems, I find hard to believe when the rest of the world is having it's economy destroyed by said system is, well, somewhat hilarious.
posted by delmoi at 6:34 AM on March 10, 2009 [12 favorites]


We also cannot discount corruption and greed in this process. Years of misrule by men in expensive shoes exploiting men (and women) in flip-flops to enrich themselves has really crippled large swaths of the continent with violence. The "resource curse" has a lot to do with this. So Aid is not the only answer, nor is an unfettered free-market. I favor a combination of smart development that engages local stakeholders, and sensible tax codes that make the rulers accountable to the people, rather than to large multinational corporations and institutions.
posted by cal71 at 6:35 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some good blogs on humanitarian aid:

William Easterly's excellent Aid Watch

Michael Kleinman's blog at change.org
posted by cal71 at 6:38 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


This thesis sounds absurd when it is arguable that pro-market influences from the IMF and World Bank have contributed to the NEED for aid inteh first place in some countries. now this 'market solutions' will magically fix all the probelms it caused?

how absurd.
posted by mary8nne at 6:41 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]




"It is aid itself that is keeping Africa poor. This in a nutshell, is the argument Moyo develops in the first half of her book, Dead Aid, which came out last month. She is referring only to government aid, not to emergency humanitarian aid or charity." 1
posted by tybeet at 6:49 AM on March 10, 2009


Philip Theroux' Dark Star Safari is a travelogue and memoir that also argues that aid is bad for Africa. I highly recommend it as a first-hand account of how the continent has changed (for the worse) over the last 30 years. (It's also a damn good travel book.)
posted by edrnjevich at 6:50 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


it has nothing to do with that, explosion. you are still basically parroting the infantilizing and condescending assumptions imperial denizens of the "First World" have about Africa.

for the United States, the issue is the lack of total understanding of the history of that continent. understanding the history of Africa would set back the white washing of slavery and racism but more importantly, it would throw a whole monkey wrench on the US cultural assumptions of meritocracy vs. privilege.

look, the elites in Africa have thrived and continue to thrive on slavery. slavery has been the ipso facto way to make money on that continent for centuries. and it was not just the elites "thing". Europe nor the United States wouldn't exist without the conscious participation, encouragement and perpetuation of the many faces and forms of slavery that have evolved since it's alleged abolition.

this, by the way is true for India and China also, the two largest countries with powerfl ruling classes that control most of what is a basically a seemigly never-ending supply of slave population.

we need to redefine slavery and "upgrade" awareness of it to the social, political and economic realities that have transformed it into multiple forms of exploitation.

btw : when the "wretched classes of Europe" hit the US, they were viewed by th eUS elites as fitting substitutes to the slaves they had to give (alleged) equal rights to after abolition. the "nativist" movement in this country is trying desperately to strip constitutional extensions to immigrants that were fought for and won last century not because they are the wretched of centuries past. no. a lot of these immigrants are indeed better educated and more enterprising than their US counterparts.

the saddest part of the anti-immigrant movement is that the elites pushing for anti-immigrant measures want a slave-like population they can exploit under the law while a lot of the people whining about immigrants are the grandchildren of those "wretched classes" that benefited from Jim Crow laws as well as the class and labor struggles of the early 20th century.
posted by liza at 6:51 AM on March 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


We have created a begging culture in Africa. Everybody wants something. Yeah, that man may have a cell phone and substantially nicer clothing than me, but he wants me to buy him breakfast. Why? because I am white and I am 'rich'. Much of this has been created by the aid agencies who have corrupted both governments, and the general populace. Do you know how much USAID is available for sale in the markets all over Africa?

"Give me your shoes, mazunga. Give me your bag... gimme, gimme, gimme."

These aid agencies do not allow nations to develop in a sustainable way - they will always be dependent and the corruption will continue to deepen.
posted by gman at 6:53 AM on March 10, 2009


Africa can only be competitive if Europe and the USA remove agricultural subsidies. It's probably the biggest obstacle.
posted by PenDevil at 6:55 AM on March 10, 2009 [7 favorites]


"it has nothing to do with that, explosion. you are still basically parroting the infantilizing and condescending assumptions imperial denizens of the "First World" have about Africa."

No he is not. How do you read that into his comment?
posted by kolophon at 7:04 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


There was a great TED talk by Seyi Oyesola that hammers home the point that African problems need African solutions. In his particular case, it was a design for healthcare equipment that works in areas where neither power nor access to replacement parts are necessarily guaranteed. The solution (a "hospital in a box") arose out frustration with donated medical equipment from Europe and the US. Costly to maintain, didn't run on alternate power sources and no access to parts.
posted by jquinby at 7:10 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


We have created a begging culture in Africa. Everybody wants something. Yeah, that man may have a cell phone and substantially nicer clothing than me, but he wants me to buy him breakfast. Why? because I am white and I am 'rich'.

what the fuck are you talking about
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:12 AM on March 10, 2009 [9 favorites]


Thanks for the post. The more I understand of aid, the more I think that the vast majority of it is just there as a sop to our consciences, a political excuse not to deal with real problems which we foist on the developing world. Actually dealing with them might entail sacrifice on our part, which is politically impossible, so we slap on a sticking plaster and call it 'aid'. That it does more harm than good is irrelevant.

The beauty of it is, that if it doesn't work, we get to turn round and blame the aid workers (in their Big White Cars) or the World Bank or somesuch. To look elsewhere would mean engaging with the self-evident truth - which is we rigged the deck 200 years ago, and are still dealing from the bottom of the same pack.
posted by YouRebelScum at 7:13 AM on March 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Give a man a fish and he'll feed himself for a day.
Give a man a net and he'll feed his family forever.
Give a man a jet ski and he'll have a wicked time and learn some awesome tricks!
posted by xpermanentx at 7:19 AM on March 10, 2009


Optimus Chyme - I'm talking about my experiences all over Sub-Saharan Africa. Rich or poor, they have come to expect us to give them handouts. *Proud Eritreans being somewhat of an exception to this.
posted by gman at 7:20 AM on March 10, 2009


parroting the infantilizing and condescending assumptions imperial denizens of the "First World" have about Africa

No he is not. How do you read that into his comment?


It's a natural assumption from the "teach a man to fish" saying - as though a bunch of Western postgrads can parachute into a place and teach the locals (who have been surviving for years in some very tough environments) about their context, which is what aid usually comes down to. If these guys and their ancestors have been sitting next to a river for centuries, they know the hell how to fish, certainly better than some fresh faced twenty-something who's been sitting in LSE or SIPA lecture halls for a few years. Aid is normally exceptionally condescending. Our well-meaning 'capacity-building' stems from a misunderstanding of the culture of the recipient country, a misunderstanding of what they need, a misconception of their problems, and an arrogance stemmed from too long sitting in a library reading economics books.
posted by YouRebelScum at 7:21 AM on March 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


The thing is, we have a pretty good idea how to build up a country's economy. The US did it with Japan after WWII: no American goods were allowed into Japanese markets, but American markets were opened to Japanese products. It allowed domestic producers to grow and develop without competition from established foreign businesses until they were ready to take it on.

Widespread political instability is one reason this maybe can't be done in many parts of Africa, but then again maybe the instability is because the economy sucks and there's no middle class.
posted by echo target at 7:24 AM on March 10, 2009


Okay, this is just to get rid of the "give a man a fish" jokes:

Give a man a fire, and he's warm for a day.
Set a man on fire, and he's warm for the rest of his life.
posted by DreamerFi at 7:28 AM on March 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


Africa is a pretty damned big continent, gman. You sure you want to take on the task of painting 922 million people with the same brush?
posted by koeselitz at 7:31 AM on March 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


I doubt you'll ever seen agricultural subsidies disappear because they protect the U.S. and Europe from dependence on foreign food.

A more realistic solution might be outlawing transportation of major quantities of staple foods between nations. You'd still let food snobs buy their Basmati rice and Kobe beef, but you'd prevent the whole population from eating imported foods.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:31 AM on March 10, 2009


When you get down off of your high horse and bother to read the FPP you will find that the quoted sentence is extracted from the fourth paragraph of the linked article. Apart from that, carry on frothing.
posted by adamvasco at 7:32 AM on March 10, 2009


Africa is a pretty damned big continent, gman. You sure you want to take on the task of painting 922 million people with the same brush?

You're totally right. I can only speak from my own experiences and my own everyday interactions. I just know that what we're doing now ain't working.
posted by gman at 7:35 AM on March 10, 2009


I'm talking about my experiences all over Sub-Saharan Africa. Rich or poor, they have come to expect us to give them handouts.

When I submit bids for graphic design work here in the States, rich white Americans ask/expect me to do the work for free. It's not just Africans who expect something for nothing, dummy.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:42 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


what the fuck are you talking about

I would really enjoy if people stopped using this in place of, "I disagree with you."
posted by adamdschneider at 7:45 AM on March 10, 2009 [11 favorites]


It's the old "give a man a fish/teach a man to fish" dichotomy.

With the added twist of "after stealing his own fish with the threat of mutilation".
posted by Joe Beese at 7:46 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Optimus Chyme - Do you think the name calling is necessary?
posted by gman at 7:46 AM on March 10, 2009


Rich or poor, Metafiltarians have come to expect us to namecall them.
posted by Dumsnill at 7:51 AM on March 10, 2009 [9 favorites]


And I'm not sure if you've ever been to the underdeveloped world, but the extent of begging is unrivaled. In no other area have I had a well-to-do person ask me for a handout.
posted by gman at 7:52 AM on March 10, 2009


When I submit bids for graphic design work here in the States, rich white Americans ask/expect me to do the work for free. It's not just Africans who expect something for nothing, dummy.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:42 AM on March 10


If that's how you view the world, then maybe you should find out what rich white Americans are willing to pay actual money for, and sell that instead.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:59 AM on March 10, 2009


[What adamdschneider said. Please cool it a bit, OC.]
posted by cortex at 8:01 AM on March 10, 2009


gman, I tend to agree with your point. I dated a girl in high school that was born in Ghana, and her stories amazed me. Basically, it seemed like everyone wanted a handout. The employee at the information desk at the airport wouldn't give out a timetable without a bribe. Cops won't help without a greased palm.

Her father (while living in New Jersey) was overseeing the construction of a family homestead back in Ghana. He got his brother to do most of the onsite supervision and sent money to his brother to purchase supplies and materials. The most glaring example of graft that I can think of - his own brother took the money he sent to purchase windows for the house, bought the cheapest thing he could find, and pocketed the difference. Now the house leaks.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:07 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


to hell with good intentions.
posted by yonation at 8:07 AM on March 10, 2009


Is foriegn aid really that big a compenent in African economies? I'd like to see some hard numbers here before I accept that aid is a bigger problem than multiple endemic diseases, chronic war and political unstable colonial drawn borders.

I wouldn't be surprised if "government aid, not to emergency humanitarian aid or charity" is a problem since most government aid is given out for political reasons. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid for obvious reasons, followed by Egypt which is given aid so it will be nice to Israel. I still doubt that even if all the foreign aid going to Africa were being used for corrupt purposes it would even approach the detrimental effects of malaria.
posted by afu at 8:12 AM on March 10, 2009


"What we're doing isn't working well" is a pretty reasonable argument.

"Everything gets better when you add some lassiez-faire capitalism!" is starry-eyed ideology, and you'd think we'd *know* better than that at this point.
posted by edheil at 8:13 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


As I said above, we have caused this, but it needs to fuckin' stop. And we need to work with Africans to figure out a sustainable solution where Africans can live with pride and dignity. What we don't need is a bunch of rich white people over here, or faith-based organizations over there, making these important decisions.
posted by gman at 8:19 AM on March 10, 2009


Why don't we build some schools, feed whatever students (of whatever age) that show up regularly to learn, teach them to read, and supply them with access to all the information humanity has amassed over the millenia. And then let them figure out for themselves what they need to do to improve their lives. That'd be the core of my strategy, anyway, if I was The Man.
posted by jamstigator at 8:23 AM on March 10, 2009


[snark] Corruption? Or libertarian Utopia? [/snark]

I found The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier a very interesting read. From Much of the Third World is prospering, but a hard core poses an ever growing risk for the rest of us:
The clarion call for the left is Jeffrey Sachs’s book The End of Poverty. Much as I agree with Sachs’s passionate call to action, I think he has overplayed the importance of aid. Aid alone will not solve the problems of the bottom billion – we need to use a wider range of policies.

The right needs to move on from the notion of aid as part of the problem – as welfare payments to scroung-ers and crooks. It has to disabuse itself of the belief that growth is something that is always there for the taking, if only societies would get themselves together.

It has to face up to the fact that these countries are stuck, that competing with China and India is going to be difficult. Indeed, it has to recognise that private activity in the global market can sometimes generate problems for the poorest countries that need public solutions. And because not even the US government is big enough to fix these problems by itself, these public solutions will usually have to be cooperative.

The clarion call for the right is economist William Easterly’s book The White Man’s Burden. Easterly rightly mocks the delusions of the aid lobby. But just as Sachs exaggerates the pay-off to aid, Easterly exaggerates the downside.
posted by alasdair at 8:36 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm really skeptical of the idea that aid is taken as a whole damaging. I'm sure that Aid does create costs in terms of corruption and dependence but I have a hard time believing that these costs are greater than the simple material benefits of aid. A lot of the arguments on either side seem like 'my preferred political ideology for a first world situation is generalizable to sub-subsistence agricultural economies in places that have problems with the rule of law corruption and a number of environmental problems and epidemic health issues.'
posted by I Foody at 8:38 AM on March 10, 2009


It's Late
posted by Restless Day at 8:46 AM on March 10, 2009


Jamstigator: aid efforts have stumbled across some logistical problems. Teaching is always politicised and therefore curricula are often contested; funds must in general come through government budgets which comes with corruption issues (otherwise you get weird coordination and dual-public-sector [PDF] issues); teaching all information we have amassed is a large ask for any teacher and is anyway dependent on trained teachers who can communicate with their classes who may be in short supply in some developing countries; and because demand for learning is often a function of the wider economy and may simply fuel existing class divides as kids from poorer families are made to work since otherwise they won't have food.
posted by YouRebelScum at 8:52 AM on March 10, 2009


The idea that Africans asking for stuff is caused by Aid is ridiculous, they just don't have the same hangups about asking people for things. They're just as demanding with each other, believe me.

"Oh, we have to stop giving Africans aid because when I go there then they ask me for stuff and it's so annoying!"

Talk about a lack of perspective.
posted by delmoi at 9:10 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Well, Of course I can't speak for all of Africa, just my personal experience with my relatives)
posted by delmoi at 9:14 AM on March 10, 2009


Obviously the higher ups know that foreign aid is having this effect. The real question is why do they let it continue. Over a trillion in aid over the last 50 years..... There is a reason this has continued. No one just gives like this out of the goodness of their hearts. If foreign aid really was out to help Africa, they would have "taught them how to fish" a long time ago. All we need to do is figure out what Africa has that is of value and how someone is benefiting from Africa not being as developed as the rest of the world to get it.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 9:21 AM on March 10, 2009


They're just as demanding with each other, believe me.

So then my question is, when did this lack of self-respect/entitlement attitude begin? Do rich Africans ask poor Africans to buy them breakfast, give them their shoes, or toss them some coin?
posted by gman at 9:28 AM on March 10, 2009


Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
posted by wayofthedodo at 9:32 AM on March 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


The problem is there might not be enough proverbial fish in the sea - whether to catch or to give.
Population in Africa grows at a phenomenal rate.
Africa grew almost 4 times from 1950 to 2000. (As opposed to twice in North America).
If it keeps growing at that rate, any improvement it makes in infrastructure, health, education, standard of living etc would simply be eaten up by the growth.
posted by 7life at 9:36 AM on March 10, 2009


No one just gives like this out of the goodness of their hearts.

So true. The parts of Central and East Africa I've seen are owned by the Indians and the Chinese. Every fuckin' town, no matter how big or small has Indian owned drugstores, hotels, hardware stores, restaurants, etc. And the Chinese are all over Sudan (and it's oil). Sanctions, and a general disinterest by the Americans and most Europeans (save for missionaries) has left it wide open for them.
posted by gman at 9:40 AM on March 10, 2009


Read The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs. Yes, you. Don't listen to his talks on YouTube or NPR, don't read some heavily slanted review of the book, actually go to the library and get the book and read it from cover to cover.

Sachs does advocate increasing aid to Africa, but he advocates doing it in a very careful way, and fully acknowledges the downsides that handouts can have. Read the book! Yes, you!

As an aside, I've been repeatedly astonished by how many of my liberal, well-meaning friends say confused and borderline racist things about Africa. Stuff like "if millions of them die from AIDS, there will be fewer mouths to feed" and "if they'd just get educated/get a stable government/stop having wars, then they could fix themselves." The issue of African development is staggeringly complicated, but somehow people think they understand it after watching the occasional 30-second segment on CNN.
posted by miyabo at 9:49 AM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


If that's how you view the world, then maybe you should find out what rich white Americans are willing to pay actual money for, and sell that instead.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:59 AM on March 10


I do fine; thanks for your concern.

[What adamdschneider said. Please cool it a bit, OC.]
posted by cortex at 8:01 AM on March 10


My apologies, for gman says blacks are greedy; and gman is an honourable man.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:03 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


So let me get this straight: she wants outside governments to either stop giving aid, or let outsiders give aid based on if they like the government or not, while working from the premise that the aid cheque is a king maker. Isn't that essentially demanding to be colonized? I thought the guys in pith helmets judging the virtue of your government to decide if you should keep it was supposed to be a bad thing.
posted by Phalene at 10:10 AM on March 10, 2009


So then my question is, when did this lack of self-respect/entitlement attitude begin?

Did it ever occur to you that asking for stuff might not be considered "undignified"? I Some people think gay sex is undignified, some people think tatoos are undignified, some people think drug use is undignified. Is everyone who engages in those things lacking in self respect, or do they just have different cultural norms? It's just bullshit for you to sit here and say:

"Oh there's an epidemic of behavior that annoys me in Africa! If these people had any self respect they wouldn't do things that annoyed me!!!! Clearly we have to stop Aid right away since that's the only possible explanation for them acting in a way that I, personally, would not act!!!!"
posted by delmoi at 10:20 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


So how much of the $1 trillion in 'aid' is weaponry? I notice that one thing that helped Germany and Japan recover from WWII is that they didn't kill each other by the millions.
posted by mullingitover at 10:45 AM on March 10, 2009


I'm really skeptical of the idea that aid is taken as a whole damaging.

I think it depends on what you mean by "taken as a whole." Is any kind of aid or development assistance futile and damaging? Probably not. Moyo herself seems to be a pretty big fan of microcredit and other NGO approaches.

However, it's no big secret in the international development community that there is such a thing as problematic aid... aid that ends up funneled to problematic political solutions, macro projects that don't work out as planned, and the law of unintended consequences shows its head not at all infrequently.

There are a couple of things you can do in response to this observation. You can say "Well, we have to do something," and plow ahead. You win points for acting out of a sense conscience, but there's that whole thing about the road to hell and the intentions with which it is paved. You can say "Look! This doesn't work, and free market capitalism has made the first world rich!" But that's simplistic unless you're Hernando de Soto or similarly thinking deeply enough about what actually made and makes the first world successful that you can begin to come up with tenable solutions (and even then, chances are, you're going to be wrong about something). And you can throw up your hands and say "This is intractable, and we barely know how to deal with our own problems, and the idea that we're responsible for any of this is vaguely imperialistic/paternal anyway," and a lot of that's true, but then again, walking away is hard on the conscience, and in an interconnected world, regional problems can come back to haunt you in a big way.

The people I've seen inside the development/aid community who I respect most are humble about this. They question the value of aid constantly, they worry and wonder about what works and second-order effects and problems. And they're willing to shift strategies and refine techniques and try to gradually become more effective. And the thing is... many of them now agree with Moyo more or less: they think that macro projects and government-to-government aid really aren't great ideas except potentially as disaster relief. Beyond that, I'm not sure anybody has a silver bullet and lots of people keep plugging away trying to come up with better ideas and potential solutions. Some of which seem to be promising (microcredit also has its problems, but at this point overall it seems to be enough of a success story that it's pretty easy to be breathless about it).

I haven't read Moyo's book, so it's possible that I'm misrepresenting her, but this is what I'm pulling out of a couple of articles I've read (in particular I'd recommend this Guardian article). The problem I anticipate is that a lot of other people aren't going to read her book and are going to reduce her message to "Charity sucks! That guy should learn to fish! Capitalism solves everything!" And some people are going to misuse her work to embrace those ideas, and others are going to reject worthy arguments that aid can be problematic and keep right on pushing.

I'll also add that many journalists and pundits are going to contribute to this problem. Whoever decided to referred to Moyo as "the anti-Bono" did a great job of labeling from a cutesy psuedo-journalism-as-political-entertainment perspective, but it also reinforces a kind of disucssion that isn't productive. I think it's perfectly legitimate to argue that specific means Bono advocates may have problems. I think it's less legitimate to caricature Bono or any other advocate. Lots of people who want to help have bad ideas along with good intentions, criticizing the good intentions or turning this into a personality war is itself a ridiculously bad idea.

This should always be about working on improving the ideas and implementations, and not about deflating the supply of good intentions. There's enough misery in the world that we're going to need all of the later we can get.
posted by weston at 10:57 AM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Oh there's an epidemic of behavior that annoys me in Africa! If these people had any self respect they wouldn't do things that annoyed me!!!! Clearly we have to stop Aid right away since that's the only possible explanation for them acting in a way that I, personally, would not act!!!!"

This putting quotes around things to surmise what you believe me to be saying is pretty fuckin' lame, and downright weird, dude.

Did it ever occur to you that asking for stuff might not be considered "undignified"?

Gimme this, and gimme that is not asking. A person who is most certainly not in need and demands that I hand my personal belongings over is undignified.
posted by gman at 11:19 AM on March 10, 2009


My apologies,

Sincere, dude. Sincere.

for gman says blacks are greedy;


How charitable of you.

and gman is an honourable man.

What would possess you to say this?
posted by gman at 11:25 AM on March 10, 2009


Geez folks. Make the first comment to a post, and people jump all over it without actually thinking. I did not mean "fish" literally. I am sure that the many and varied people of Africa are able to feed themselves, agricultural crises aside. "Fishing" was a metaphor for manufacturing, and otherwise getting by.

This metaphor could also be extended to keeping peace, but it seems that other countries are happy to wage economic warfare by proxy throughout Africa rather than helping people out. It's sad, and giving people the fruits of industry is no substitute for helping them develop and maintain their own industries.
posted by explosion at 11:31 AM on March 10, 2009


From oct 2007 "The cost of conflict on African development was approximately $300bn between 1990 and 2005, according to new research by Oxfam International, IANSA and Saferworld. This is equal to the amount of money received in international aid during the same period."
posted by adamvasco at 2:18 PM on March 10, 2009


Aid? Forget about aid. Aid is going to be cut anyway. There is no money for aid. Unless the first world decides to go into another new set of trillion dollar deficits for Africa. Which I doubt very much. Even with a black president.

Man. People have yet to fully appreciate the extreme direness of our current financial crisis.
posted by tkchrist at 2:23 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Look, I hate to be a prick but a lot of people in a lot of countries have been pumping a lot of aid (be it money, food, clothes, old phones, goats, education, seeds, whatever) into Africa for a long time. Nonetheless, the situation there grows worse and worse every year. Obviously something needs to be reassessed.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:21 PM on March 10, 2009


"and gman is an honourable man. What would possess you to say this?"

It alludes to Antony (Marcus Antonius)'s eulogy of Julius Caesar in Shakespeare's eponymous play, in which Antony repeatedly says "[Preposition or Conjunction] Brutus is an honourable man" after recounting Brutus accusing Caesar of (tyrannical) ambition, thus sarcastically implying that either the people's beloved Caesar wasn't a good man or -- Antony's intent -- that Brutus is in fact not honorable:
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men--
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
. . . .
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
. . . .
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
posted by orthogonality at 3:50 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some have argued that the cultures where markets work best are marked by transparency and trust-- particularly the type of trust that allows you to feel safe trading with people who are not your family or ethnic group. Ie, social capital of both the bonding and bridging type.

If you can only trust your family/group, corruption will be endemic (you'll cheat outsiders and boost insiders) and it becomes very hard for a market to work because you develop large inequities and those re-enforce corruption and distrust. Which makes sense: if the big guys are all cheating to maintain inequity, why shouldn't you get yours by taking a bribe, giving a job to your brother, etc...

So, how do you get out of that cycle? i don't know but I do think figuring this out would help everywhere that you have failed states marked by intergroup warfare.
posted by Maias at 4:06 PM on March 10, 2009


See also: Intelligence Squared's debate on the resolution: "Aid to Africa is Doing More Harm than Good"
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:42 PM on March 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


gman says blacks are greedy;

No he basically said AFRICANS are NEEDY. Big difference.

Way to twist his words. Making a statement about Africans isn't making a blanket statement about blacks! however you DID make a few blanket statement about "greedy whites"...but i digress...

In any case, the phrase Africans are needy isn't all that insane. In a previous post I linked to Andrew Mwenda.

He compares African aid to the Marshall Plan, and points out why it isn't working. As he points out aid is often "13-15 %" of the GDP of an African country's income. You should sit through the video I linked, this guy opened my eyes up a lot to what might be happening Africa. There really is a media bias appealing to sympathy and charity for Africa by broadcasting famine, civil war etc. He says aid makes objects of the poor -- they become passive.

The goal is is, to put it crassly, Make Africa NOT needy. Some people are proposing setting up self sustaining business. Some people say "less aid", some say "more is fine".. but make it smarter!

Bottom line? Right now Africa really really is needy/dependent and noone really disputes that! The argument is "how do we fix it"? Whats the best way?
posted by 5imian at 9:46 PM on March 10, 2009


No he basically said AFRICANS are NEEDY. Big difference.

No, he was actually saying they were RUDE because he can't deal with cultural differences like a grownup, and confuses the cultural norms he grew up with some kind of ideal such that anyone who doesn't live up to them has no self respect or whatever.

Really, his entire complaint is about how annoying it is to be asked for stuff, and then he says we should stop giving aid because it encourages this, there's no actual argument against aid other then it encourages this cultural difference that irritates him.

No different then an traditionalist Muslim visiting the west and then declaring that we have no self respect because our women all total sluts and dress like whores.
posted by delmoi at 12:11 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


No, he was actually saying they were RUDE because he can't deal with cultural differences like a grownup

He said "begging culture". I don't see how you got that. It was a statement about poverty, not customs. After WWI, Germans were buying loafs of bread with wheelbarrows. That's a statement about their behavior as a result of collapsed economy, not ripping on the German culture specifically.

What i got out of his statement, is that a lot of meddling has severely messed up the economy in Africa, and that's RESULTED in a "begging culture". Meddling from world leaders, faith based organizations and even the backlash of meddling from early imperialists. I think its safe to assume, that in the face of poverty noone is immune to this sort of "begging culture". Its something that's created, and can just as easily be dispelled. However, he was unfairly met with ad hominem attacks as a result of pointing that out. I didn't get that the "begging culture" he mentioned was RUDE, just sad or perhaps 'undignified' as he put it.

i personally think that under less dire economic circumstances we would see a very different Africa.

No different then an traditionalist Muslim visiting the west and then declaring that we have no self respect because our women all total sluts and dress like whores.


I don't think that's a fair parallel to draw at all in this situation. Its borderline inflammatory. Begging because you have famine, or poverty just isn't the same as having deeply ingrained cultural views. That same Muslim would think western women are whores, regardless of whether he was rich or poor.

I won't speak for gman anymore - he can certainly speak for himself; but i got the opinion the the behavior he pointed out would change, if Africa were in a better financial situation. If I am wrong, let gman tell me himself.
posted by 5imian at 1:13 AM on March 11, 2009


To expound upon my example with Germany using wheelbarrows of money to buy bread, here is an article comparing hyperinflation in both 1920's Germany and present day (January 2009) Zimbabwe. . Hungary is mentioned as well.
posted by 5imian at 1:38 AM on March 11, 2009


delmoi - Dude, seriously, I will ask you again to stop putting words in my fuckin' mouth. I'd explain myself further with regards to this topic, but you'd simply perceive what I wrote in the most fucked up and uncharitable way. I don't know where you live, or who brought you up, but putting quotes around inflammatory statements to surmise what you believe me to be saying, is some of the most fucked up shit I've seen on Metafilter. Those are cultural differences I can't deal with.
posted by gman at 4:31 AM on March 11, 2009


Explosion: I am sure that the many and varied people of Africa are able to feed themselves, agricultural crises aside. "Fishing" was a metaphor for manufacturing, and otherwise getting by.

And, considered in it's metaphorical sense, it's condescending. Our main problem is our arrogance in being so sure we have something to teach the developing world. In my experience, the people in developing countries are extremely adaptable and resourceful, much more so than the average aid worker (I was an aid worker myself, and say that of myself, although I knew some incredible aid workers). If they think something'll help them make money, then they'll work it out for themselves, or bring someone in who does. Some of the Afghan traders in Jalalabad I knew had minds like razors and ran extremely sophisticated trading networks, which they maintained in the midst of the chaos of the mujahideen times.

Their problems stem from their context, and as you note, specifically the various coordination problems linked to conflict and corruption which really undermine their ability to develop. These are a product largely of the systematic fuck-overs that their society received from the colonial powers, the carving up of territories into makeshift 'states' with no real thought to ethnic coherence, the Westphalian status quo, and the international trade law.

What we think is teaching them tends to be teaching them solutions to the wrong problems. What we really need to be doing is working out how we're contributing to the coordination problems - international law, political interference, trade etc. Unfortunately, it's too late to do much about the colonial heritage.
posted by YouRebelScum at 5:29 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you know how much USAID is available for sale in the markets all over Africa?

I must know more about this. Can anybody tell me more about this?
posted by anniecat at 7:42 AM on March 11, 2009


Do you know how much USAID is available for sale in the markets all over Africa?

And you are talking about United States Agency for International Development (USAID) when you say that, right? Just want to clear up my own confusion. Tell me more please.
posted by anniecat at 7:44 AM on March 11, 2009


I don't know what more I can tell you aside from the fact that these and other products are sold in markets all over the Congo, Burundi, and other Central/East African countries I've been to.

Now I wait for delmoi to bastardize what I've just written and put quotes around it.
posted by gman at 8:10 AM on March 11, 2009


Thanks for the picture, gman. Interesting stuff. I'd love to find more sources that discuss USAID's program ineffectiveness, so a-googling I will go.
posted by anniecat at 9:49 AM on March 11, 2009


Now I wait for delmoi to bastardize what I've just written and put quotes around it.
Hey now...You forgot Optimus Chyme. He said you said "blacks are greedy". Obviously:
  • Africa = all blacks everywhere. ever.
  • and begging = greedy.


  • and don't forget explosion, who made a relatively benign statement about how aid should helping Africa gain infrastructure to compete in the world marketplace.... You see, when he was talking about "how to fish" he really meant "I'm a western imperialist asshole that looks condescendingly down on everything else". How could i have MISSED THAT!" Read between the lines, buddy!

    Its so awesome. Conversational substitution! This is fun! I chooossseee youuuu Delmoi! Let me try:
    lets see... hmm. this:
  • No different then an traditionalist Muslim visiting the west and then declaring that we have no self respect because our women all total sluts and dress like whores.

  • and what else? ohh this:
  • he can't deal with cultural differences like a grownup

  • begin internal monlologue:
    Ok, so you need to learn to deal with cultural differences, and accept them for what they are, or you're just a stupid child. A STUPID dirty, worlthless, imperialist capitalist fuckwad! Yeah! Fuck You! Oh wait.. got distracted...where was I? Oh yeah. Okay! One culture out there is Muslim culture. Yes it is! Okay.... So, ummm, all Muslims, automatically no matter what, think that all western women are whores! (and slutty sluts!) I mean its their culture! Okay makes sense! We need to be sensitive to that and accept that! Yes we do! we need to accept everything that come across our diverse plate of multicultural diverse diversity plate... no matter what. So to accept a cultural norm, that means we don't oppose it, or in other words we "support it". Hell we shoudl even agree with it! Okay, okay...OMIGOSH! O TOTALLY KNOW WHAT DELMOI IS REEEALLLY SAYING!!!

    where my quote key? oh yes. Delmoi is basically saying
    "ALL WESTERN WOMEN ARE TOTAL SLUTS AND WHORES"
    yes he said it! direct quote!
    Wow, thanks metafilter for teaching me how to take seemingly innocuous advice and twisting it into something wicked!
    Yeah, so seriously folks: the substitution property - works in math, not in prose.
    posted by 5imian at 9:54 AM on March 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


    As he points out aid is often "13-15 %" of the GDP of an African country's income.

    Wikipedia says the average foreign aid revenue as a percent of GDP is 3.2%. I'm sure it is higher for some countries, for reasons both political and practical.

    The whole problem with the Aid causes poverty argument is that it is trying to prove causation were there is only a weak correlation. Foreign AID is a type of government intervention so stereotypically progressives are for it and free market type conservatives are against it. Still no one has given a good economic argument with firm numbers that foreign aid has any substantial effect on the African economy. So far the arguments linked here have been mere ideological pieces intended solely for western consumption.

    I need to take miyabo's adive and read Jeffery Sach's book, it takes a book length argument to really understand these issues, not the op eds we usually get as FPPs.
    posted by afu at 10:10 AM on March 11, 2009


    My pet peeve with discussions like this is the tendency to say something like, "We give so much aid to Africa, why can't they figure shit out?" Last time I checked Africa is a continent, not a country. I'd love to see a discussion of the impacts of aid in all 61 African territories which have different cultural, political, and economic realities than their neighbors.

    (I'm not calling anyone out in this thread in particular, it's just a general issue I wish was addressed more often.)
    posted by Mouse Army at 6:08 PM on March 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


    Something that I didn't see mentioned in this thread is how Breton Woods aid (IMF, World Bank) doesn't come without strings, strings like opening up markets to foreign competition and investment, removal of local subsidies, and agreement to debt repayment plans. The first two conditions often underestimate the fragility of local development, and the removal of subsidies is particularly hypocritical because it essentially means that we're disabling their state control for the benefit of our subsidized industries. That's one of the other salient points about aid, especially USAID, is that it's essentially a giant sop to our overproduction, being price-dumped on developing nations. The debt repayment is a complicated issue all on its own, because the debt is often incurred by bad government in order to enrich themselves, leaving infrastructure neglected, but without agreeing to debt repayment plans, investors see the developing nations as too risky to invest in, so no one would buy debt issuance, which means that they can't raise the funds to build the infrastructure that they need to move beyond a resource extraction model of economics.
    posted by klangklangston at 8:30 AM on March 12, 2009


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