Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The Guardian is screaming out for rich donor countries to help the suffering people of Southern Africa, who are currently experiencing a drought which they claim was caused by El-nino and climate change. But a little research demonstrates that these countries are entirely capable of helping themselves, if the politicians in charge of these drought hit nations diverted a little cashflow towards helping their suffering people.
Southern Africa cries for help as El Niño and climate change savage maize harvest
Only half of $600m promised in aid has come
Two-year-old Zeka screams as a health worker measures the circumference of her arm while another holds her legs and presses her flesh. The nurses agree: Zeka has clear signs of edema, a swelling condition caused by extreme hunger.
“She will live, but she needs to go to hospital. The situation in this area is much worse than when we were here just a few weeks ago.
“It looks like 10% of children here are now malnourished. It will certainly get worse,” said chief health assistant Ane Banda, who is leading a government assessment of rural areas near Nsanje, close to the Malawian border with Mozambique.
“We have not eaten for days,” said Zeka’s mother, who has been living off wild fruit, water lilies and the kindness of neighbours but has been told to attend a food handout in her village the next day.
Malawi is one of seven southern African countries on the brink of starvation and in a situation that the UN says needs requires immediate action.
It has been devastated by a combination of a long drought caused by a strong El Niño weather cycle and climate change. Successive maize harvests have failed, leaving communities there and in Zambia, Congo, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and elsewhere, desperate for food.
Why do I think these countries can take care of themselves?
Zambia: Despite extensive government mismanagement, Copper is still the mainstay of Zambia’s export industry. According to Trading Economics, Zambia is earning around USD $1.5 million per month in Copper exports. It would be a lot more if Zambia didn’t keep messing up mining agreements signed with companies desperate to exploit Zambia’s mineral wealth.
Congo: Congo has extensive deposits of Diamonds, Uranium, an estimated USD $24 trillion in untapped mineral wealth, much of it readily accessible with low tech mining equipment. The problem with the Congo is political instability, something they are going to have to sort out for themselves.
Zimbabwe: Despite vigorous government attempts to loot and destroy the Zimbabwean farming system, Zimbabwe still own and operate significant income producing assets. In 2013, Zimbabwean mineral exports were estimated at USD $1.8 billion. No shortage of cash there.
Mozambique: In 2012, CityAM, a London financial publication, noted that the European economic crisis was so severe in Spain, there was a significant net flow of
Spanish Portuguese economic refugees to Angola and Mozambique, begging Mozambican authorities for work visas. Mozambique has a GDP of USD $18 billion per annum. Any suggestion that Mozambique needs economic aid is complete fiction.
Obviously a few of the countries on the list are run by kleptocrats who simply don’t care if their people are starving, or who see photogenic scenes of starving peasants as a way of squeezing money out of Westerners stupid enough to believe their tales of woe. But all of the countries listed by the Guardian have the means, if not the will, to take care of their own problems.
What should we do in cases where the government simply won’t take care of its own people?
Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati has some advice for Westerners who want to help, when they see pictures of starving children.
For God’s Sake, Please Stop the Aid!”
The Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, 35, says that aid to Africa does more harm than good. The avid proponent of globalization spoke with SPIEGEL about the disastrous effects of Western development policy in Africa, corrupt rulers, and the tendency to overstate the AIDS problem.
July 04, 2005 12:00 AM
SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa…
Shikwati: … for God’s sake, please just stop.
SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.
Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.
SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?
Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.
SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.
Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there’s a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program — which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It’s only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it’s not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa …
The moral of the story is clear – let other people sort their own problems out, even if they try to play on your empathy and convince you that their suffering is your fault.
Correction (EW) – the CityAM story was about Portuguese economic refugees flooding into Africa. The Spanish economic refugees were flocking to Latin America.