Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bleak Outlook for Africa

A report issued by the Washington based International Food Policy Research Institute predicts that there will be over 38.3 poverty stricken children in Africa by the year 2025. (AlJazeera: Report: African famine may worsen). According to researchers, "the only way to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals of cutting the number of hungry in half by 2015 would be through reforming trade policies, significant financial investments, increased agricultural research and extension services, as well as better crop, land and water management."

That assessment fails to address the major prerequisite to resolving any economic problems in Africa. Until there is major political reform - and in some cases regime change - in much of Africa, economic aid will do little more than line the pockets of the ruling class. Sadly, the aid does not make it to those most desperately in need of it.

South Africa, the major power broker throughout much of the continent, wants no outside interference when it comes to political reform. That's a most interesting position for them to take, considering it was outside influence (lead by the US) that resulted in a reversal of apartheid.

The bottom line is, The Grape is all in favor of providing assistence to the poverty stricken regions in Africa. What The Grape does not favor is simply tossing good money into the hands of those corrupt regimes that have no regard for the welfare of their own people. Political reform and regime change must precede aid if we have any hope of salvaging the situation in Africa. Money is only part of the solution, and it's not the first part.



Alan Fraser said...

As we've seen in Iraq, the administration's thirst for regime change does not result in anything good for the country being changed. The gross violations of international law perpetrated by the Bush and Reagan administrations (e.g., Panama, Granada, Iraq) and interference in the rights of other sovereign nations (e.g., Nicaragua, Cuba) has left America with virtually no credibility on the world stage so any protestations regarding the way other countries are run will likely and deservedly be met with derision.

Live 8 has failed miserably in that it successfully elicited promises from the leading nations to provide increased funding to Africa but it failed to realize that the nations would immediately follow those promises with excuses for doing nothing at all. Like a promise made on Prom Night, it means nothing in the morning.

And the babies keep dying. It's not hyperbole but rather a brutal reality and you're quite right that there is corruption in African administrations but there is corruption in any political administration so the question is not whether that can be changed to permit relief but rather how relief can proceed in spite of it.

Kannafoot said...

I'm certainly not eager to get US troops involved in conflicts in Africa. As harsh as this may sound, there's no benefit to the US and therefore I don't want to commit troops. But neither am I willing to pump millions of dollars into nations without knowing that the money will provide the intended relief.

You're correct in saying the babies keep daying. They are the ultimate victims of these corrupt regimes.

Now, I don't mean to imply that all African governments are corrupt. There are other regions that are virtually without a central government and governed by regional warlords. We tried to deal with that in Somalia and got nowhere. Other nations like Uganda have a central government, but the lawlessness of outlying areas make providing aid impractical.

For aid to be effective, the nations themselves must be willing to accept it and work to get the supplied aid to the people that need it. It would also help if they actually admitted they need assistance.

Consider the comments of Niger's President, Mamadou Tanja, who denied yesterday that his country is experiencing a famine. His outrageous claim is that his people look well fed and that food shortages are normal. How are we expected to help countries like that? While I feel for the people suffering under him, I don't see much hope in providing assistance as long as he's in the way. His attitude is not uncommon in that region, much to the detriment of the starving children.

Alan Fraser said...

Simplistic possibility but it's the first that comes to mind: airlift. Care packages by parachute as has been done in the past. Bypass the infrastructure and get help directly to where it needs to go.

There couldn't be any greater intransigence than was presented by the Soviets in the blockade of Berlin and that was overcome so why not here? Yes, it's a much greater scale but there's, ostensibly, a whole world that is willing to help and, so long as there are no guns involved, I expect the rest of the world really would help.