Coming back to Uganda, was in fact an anti climax. I was really looking forward to it, and believe me, I am happy. I love Africa and everything that comes with it, the food, music, and general life – but sometimes I’m struggling with feelings of what the heck I’m doing here. What work are we doing, and how will it affect the people here? They are not helpless and could maybe handle the situation better themselves, with some simple tools and resources. Who is going to provide people with these “resources” then?
To understand the level of failure that charity & giving can accomplish one need only look at Africa. I agree when Moyo argues (in her book “Dead Aid”) that not only does aid actually destroy much of the potential economic development of African nations and enables corrupt leaders to maintain their power, but at the same time it encourages would-be dictators to attempt to overthrow existing regimes, which in turn creates more war and more poverty.
Food is in fact one of the most brutal forms of aid. Many countries receive aid in the form of agricultural products brought from abroad. The result of these gifts is that local farmers cannot compete with free food, and any chance of self sustainability vanishes. In Africa the world’s aid is destroying the capacity of the people to become self sustaining, resulting in a vicious circle of aid, corruption and more (not less) poverty. It’s my beliefe today, that a better way of working lies in the small scale, grass root level. If food is needed in an area, you should buy products from farmers around, but then – should you give it away to the people in need, or go into a kind of co-up and agreement with them? Or should you just stay away? Who will then provide for these people? In general, Africans that is better off doesn’t seem to bother – enough.
How can we affect and turn the circle of giftisism, dependency and exploition?
Today Africa is covered with corrupt leaders. Not a day goes without reading something in the newspapers about how corrupt the continent of Africa and its leaders are. Although corruption is a universal phenomenon and exists in all countries, not the least my own country Norway (as well as system dependency and greed) it seems a bit more serious matter in Africa as they are receiving billions of aid money. This is not only about political leaders though, you find it everywhere – from the little leader in the village to the big leader of a country. This is really depressing! The first that met me coming back as well, was people asking for money. I’m sorry to tell, I have learned from my mistakes, and will not give away a penny again. I will rather look for other ways of helping out, through co-operation. If my work here should make any sense, I have to start with the people themselves. Go into discussions on how to move forward, and how to eventually work together.
The line between need and greed is very thin and often difficult to distinguish.
So, my perspective – and this is also a growing view in general, giving money and volunteering in foreign countries doesn’t solve the world’s complex problems. In Africa, aid supports the structures that continue to entrench contries in a cycle of poverty. So what works?
Moyo argues that the answer to Aid in Africa, is to replace “free money” with capitalist money. I’m not sure about the level of that, but instead of giving, you should include, go into partnership, invest and create work opportunities. I will never, ever be the white colonialist though, introducing my business ideas, and hire Africans to work for me. I would rather start a business circle that has potential to grow from the resources already existing in Africa, help out, and then give the key back to the workers. This is the only way to help out, that I personally believe in.