Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Aid is like a salted peanut

While on the previous subject... I just came across this article: Our 'Africa' Lenses: From the West, Big Labels but Little Context written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in the Washington Post.

It deals with an African’s perception of how “the West” perceives “Africa”, inspired by Madonna’s attempt to adopt.

I could carry on about a great deal of what I agree with:

"I reject this facile compression of a varied continent into a monolithic country, but I have also come to accept that African nations do have much in common with one another".

"The power differential was so stark [between Madonna & Dad Banda]...it made Africa seem terribly dispensable".

"The underlying notion...that one helps Africa by adopting Africa's children".

"It is easy to romanticize poverty, to see poor people as inherently lacking agency and will. It is easy to strip them of human dignity, to reduce them to objects of pity. This has never been clearer than in the view of Africa from the American media, in which we are shown poverty and conflicts without any context".

"Surely there are Congolese who are working just as hard as the foreigners and who don't fit into the category of either killer or killed".

"Instead of asking television viewers to go to Africa and adopt, she had asked them to send a check to malaria-eradication organizations... I wish she had said that she was setting up an organization to use donations as micro-credit and that this organization, by the way, would be run by locals rather than expatriate staff whose expatriate salaries raise the rent in the cities".

Africa is a place where the people do not need limp gifts of fish but sturdy fishing rods and fair access to the pond...... actually, this whole paragraph...

Rather just read the article, and let me know what you think.


Anonymous said...

The topic of Africa and aid always makes the veins in my temples throb. Sometimes I think it would be better if we built a giant pallisade fence around the continent with big "fuck off and leave us alone" signs all along it.

ChewTheCud said...

Africa is fucked up!! Food aid can't be stopped because its the bleeding heart liberals baby, and africans have become dependant upon it. If it is stopped people will die.

Anonymous said...

I sometimes feel that African aid is counterproductive. What would be more helpful would be throwig real skills and education at people, as opposed to just food. Throwing food means that people are kept in a perpetual state of neediness and do not develop self coping mechanisms. Yes people need it to a certain extent, but much more than just this is neccessary.
African aid feels like colonialism of a different sort altogether...
Also - I hate pity. It infantilises people.

Champagne Heathen said...

Kyk - "Fuck off and leave us alone, especially you hypocritical manipulative capitalists out to make a quick buck from people's destitution!"

I think it would make a great experiment! Maybe we should just start with one pilot country & see what happens. If people (mainly disgustingly greedy leaders & elite) can get their act into gear with no help from the outside. ...oh, wait, that is slowly starting to already happen in Zim. We will watch with trepidation!!

Chews - Or maybe they will move to places that can produce food. I once was speaking to a food aid guy & he was wondering if his organisation & others were not just keeping people in areas that naturally should no longer be inhabited.

Aid is not just in the form of food though. It is food, people, material resources, programmes & agreements, subsidies etc etc. Sometimes these are manipulated by the donor & middle man, where the aid is actually going straight back to its origins rather than to the beneficiary. And that is the saddest thing of all. This aid world can be sick & depressing when you look under the surface!!! Human greed at its worst!

Jam - the aid world has changed a great deal from the early 1980s. People often use the Ethiopian famine of that time as the height of direct material aid, and the realisation that it is not sustainable or truly beneficial.

Take my current project - its about building regional technical skills and channeling them to the right sources. Very much about training, mentoring & assisting people to assist their own countries/ regions. (oooo Rev...an stalker insight into my 'real' life!!)

I def. agree with you on the neo-Colonialism aspect. Or perhaps not "neo" as the channels of dependence that Colonialism created are still in use, now just being titled "Channels of Aid".

Dave said...

Yeah I agree with him although even in the context of this debate on your blog people and yourself included are referring to Aid and Africa in the same sentence. Rather, what should happen is that we contextualise certain issues to the countries within which they happen. It is ridiculous to lump Egypt and Angola in the same category when discussing food aid, or Morocco with Chad when discussing the Malaria epidemic.

The fact is some countries need tough love and others need nurturing. Simply put I know but each case is different.

Champagne Heathen said...

Dave - good point! Although, when I speak about 'aid' I consider it to be diverse and complex in itself. (Mentioned in my comment back to Jam) Just in the HIV world, each region (bigger than a country, or within a country) needs to be assessed individually and have a unique response created. That is why we rely so heavily on local NGOs and community-based organisations. And it is one great problem of understanding amongst the donor community, that we are trying to drive home to them.