>Recently, I have been following interviews with Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian born Economist, Oxford and Harvard Graduate with an impressive resume including post with the world bank and 8 years with Goldman Sachs. She echoes most of the sentiments of many Africans and provide a much needed voice to African leaders regarding Aid to Africa.
I too share her views, partly because I was born and raised African, mostly because they are logical and true. I’m of the view that people are empowered to change their economic circumstances when the are given the time leverage and the economic framework to lend their skills to producing goods and services.
The basis for my discussion is from a human experience. Aid to Africa is like social security to the unemployed. What the unemployed need is an opportunity to work, not food stamps. In her book, Dead-Aid, Dambisa proposes a market based solution to Africa’s problem. Although capitalism has not solved the world’s problems it sure is the best vehicle to deliver wealth to nations. With money comes the ability to build infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, schools, and post offices. People are empowered to create wealth and re-distribute them.
Laissez-faires are not without limitations. History will suggest, the bulk of a nation’s capital is owned by a few and it encourages production of luxurious and ostentatious goods by the few and for the few instead of basic necessities for the masses. The basic notion of capitalism encourages beer or car production instead of food or bicycles production.
Aid carries with it a culture of dependency. Many of my friends who regularly visit Africa tell the same story. People expect you to have money because you have lived in a western country. People expect you to give them handouts because you have lived in a western country. People will spend exorbitant amount of time following you around and call you “master” or “sir” in order to benefit from your “generosity”. The fact that people equate wealth and financial assistance with the west must stem from the attitude that, the west has it all and they are giving it away. People have grown to expect remittances from the west so the incentive to work is made redundant. The media plays an important role in perpetuating this false concepts but that is another discussion.
For the most part, the aid culture has crippled Africans. From colonialism, slave trade, now corruption, foreign aid and foreign remittances. Many African people stretch their arms for someone else to deposit aid. In my previous blog titled: “I don’t have much but what I have I give you”, I related Africa’s dependency on aid to the unemployed dependency on welfare or social security. The aid culture has placed many African’s into a perpetual poverty mindset where the onus of production is repositioned on someone else.
I do not pretend to have the answers to Africa’s problem but I can offer my opinion on what can be done. If development will come to Africa it has to come from people who believe their heritage is Africa; either domestically, in the diaspora or evacuated through slavery. In my experience, these groups are of all racial backgrounds. People who believe Africa is their heritage have to understand that it is impossible to evolve without a deep understanding of their heritage.
In addition, all factions of African institutions need to work together toward the common goal of development. I understand the separation of the church,the state, and the private sector. The government needs to write and enforce laws and policies. The private sector needs to use the nation’s human and capital resources to produce goods and services and the religious organizations needs to guide the moral compass of the citizens. Although I feel that is predominately the duty of the family unit; In many African countries, the family unit is broken so religion has a huge appeal.
On a practical note, the religious bodies need to understand that they have a pivotal role in the development of citizens of the country and should act as a family unit to nurture young minds to positively impact society. The private sector should understand that they have an important part to play in the nations development and should demand the best graduates from the universities and colleges who will become human resources to aid in the production of goods and services to compete in international markets; the government should keep law and order, encourage education, health care, apprenticeship, entrepreneurship and construction of infrastructure to aid development.
If these parties all play their roles effectively. No African country will need aid to develop. Africa has all the resources it needs to develop. Human resources often gets drained but many people of African heritage are understanding the importance of giving back and are repatriating to Africa to help in her development.
In creation of wealth discussions, the bigger issue is value, the perceived value of a product or service determines its price. People place value on gold; It makes gold expensive. Africans value their religious leaders go government should expand and regulate their mandate. Include them in issues of national interest. Provide them with the opportunities to develop the masses that flock to them and give them an incentive to release people back into society to function in public or private sectors. People value western goods and service, so tax imports heavily and use the proceeds to provide financing for domestic goods and services, education and health care reforms. Use the media to create value for locally produced goods and services and give people incentives to produce and purchase them.
When countries talk of trade, they talk of comparative advantage. Which suggest countries should concentrate on the production of goods and services that can provide them an edge on the global market place. Another talk is of diversification of production, where countries are encouraged to spread their wings; to be jack of all trades. Regardless of the path African countries continue on, it is understandable that It will be difficult to compete with developed economies on established business models, however, Africa can compete on technological based business models such as the e-commerce market and the Stock market. African religion, especially the ones with evangelical movement formation are exported everywhere; Africa can learn from the Vatican and use religion to organize people, disseminate information, and push national agenda overseas.
If trade is what we need to create wealth, then China is open for business, If faith and religion is what we need to organize societies, then Africa has plenty of faith and religion, If government is what is needed to institute law and order, then African leaders are gradually stepping up to the plate. African leaders are listening, Often they don’t know who to trust but many Africans in the diaspora are proving to be trustworthy by lending proven strategic recommendations and are hands on with the implementations. Being an optimist, I think Africa’s time to develop is nearing. Aid can not be sustained. It hasn’t worked in the last 50years with over a trillion United States dollars in Aid injections. It will not work in the next 50 so it’s time for a better solution. If you heard from most Africans, you will hear that they want to be mentally and economically empowered to change their circumstances so, STOP carrying them!