Millenium Development Goal #1 will fail in Africa!
Africa, despite abundant human resources and natural wealth, is the poorest continent on Earth. While some countries try to put themselves on the path of development, others are still struggling to be self-sufficient. But thanks to the loving hearts of donors from developed countries, humanitarian aid does flow our way. Unfortunately, the flow often stops in the hands of our leaders.
The first Millennium Development Goal, to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, will surely fail if Africa’s political leaders continue to waste aid on military aims and luxurious lifestyles.
Aid to Africa has quadrupled from around US$11 billion to US$44 billion from 2005-2008 alone. In some countries like Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Somalia, Mali, Chad, Mauritania and Sierra Leone over 70 percent of total government spending came from foreign aid between 1970 and 2002, according to figures from the World Bank. Aid helps save lives, protects rights and builds livelihoods, but infantile deaths, violation of human rights, lack of basic needs, unemployment and poor living conditions is what we continue to witness in our countries. Africa’s problem is her political leaders. Not only do they sneakily move aid around to benefit their interests, but what should go to feeding our people instead entertains short-term military goals, only feeding a climate of conflict.
In December 2010, Rizza Leonzon, the staff writer at Devex in charge of preparing the Development Newswire, reported that, “The World Bank has stopped lending and disbursing development aid to Cote d’Ivoire following the country’s disputed presidential polls.”
Foreign aid was already steeply reduced between 1998 and 1999 following corruption, mismanagement and the first coup on December 24, 1999. Aid began to return around 2001 and was increased for the last election. But what has the aid asked for by Ivorian Foreign Minister Jean-Maria Kacou Gervais at the UN—“for support from the international community”—served for? And for whom will his appeal “to increase its contribution… for Côte d’Ivoire’s emergency” benefit? Already 305 million euro has been wasted on an election that remains contested and has only plunged us into deeper conflict.
As conflict, instead of development, is nurtured in my country, aid workers become frightened, resulting in under-delivery, misuse and waist of medical, food and financial aid.
Germany has made 500,000 euro available to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UNHCR to provide emergency aid for those fleeing their homes in Côte d’Ivoire. But this money that could have served development projects will instead be used for blankets, kitchen utensils and emergency accommodation as well as to provide access to clean drinking water and basic medical care. This is especially needed for women and children, as they die from the consequences of conflict rather than in the fighting itself, but imagine if this aid could be used for long-term growth projects in a country free of conflict. After 10, 40, 100 years of conflict, development will still be waiting. More money will be needed to get out of this mess, but what will be left to rebuild and restore our country and our lives?
I have realized that most aid during conflicts comes “free,” but what all Africans must know is that most development aid from the World Bank and other global institutions are “loans.” Africans are being helped, but only if they agree to be indebted. Do we have a choice? Even after the very aggressive debt-relief campaigns in the 1990s, African countries still pay close to US$20 billion in debt repayments per annum. What hurts the most, though, is that these loans were not all used to lift up our countrymen and women, but instead were wasted on conflicts and luxurious lifestyles. While our leaders’ children and families are in Europe and America, attending the best schools in the world, we are not even getting transportation to reach our old and overcrowded campuses. Instead of creating job opportunities, they just manufacture more ministerial posts, another way of justifying the need for more aid. All at the expense of the people.
But Africans can decide to change their destiny. We choose our leaders, so we must tell them what we need. I believe Egypt is a sign to let our leaders know that they govern, but do not possess our countries. We can decide to properly manage our properties by stopping bribery. Each person needs to value work and refuse to pay anything that does not go into the country’s treasures. We also need to call for strict international rules ensuring humanitarian aid targets the poorest and most vulnerable. This will be possible through education. We need education on positive thinking, capacity reinforcement, behavior and social change.
I know Africa has a long way to go, but it is not an impossible task if individually we conjointly set our priorities and work towards them one by one.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.