Opinion » Columnists
Author`s name Michael Simpson

Africa Must be Given a Chance

African Continent held down by lack of support
AIDS, poverty, underdevelopment, hunger and lack of education are
unfortunately immediately associated with Africa. However, this continent has never been given the chance to compete on an equal footing and continues to be held down by lack of support and an absence of understanding.

It is easy to pour billions of dollars into Africa, send in countless teams from aid organizations and then blame the Africans for the state of the continent. However, if the programs are not carefully coordinated and directed towards local, not western, needs and concepts, they are bound to fail.

The fact that only 7% of arable land in Africa is irrigated, that there are communities with up to 50% of HIV/AIDS infection rates, 46 million children of school age who have never been to school and many areas with chronic and endemic poverty, speaks volumes about the cooperation schemes undertaken by the more developed countries.

Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, stated to the UNO yesterday that under-nourishment is more prevalent in Africa than other continents for political, and not technical, reasons. One in three people in sub-Saharan Africa continues to be chronically hungry.

Far more money is being spent on military campaigns at present than on developing schemes to feed these people, or better, to create systems through which they can feed themselves. However, while African farmers have to compete with their counterparts in richer nations, who benefit not only from hefty government subsidies to lower the price of their crops but also from import duties to prevent the less developed countries from competing, there is not much hope of a change. African farmers are condemned to small-scale subsistence farming which makes a large percentage of the population vulnerable to cyclic weather behavior.

Mr. Diouf continued, saying that "The potential for real growth and development in Africa is dependent upon successfully addressing key challenges - hunger and poverty, agriculture production and HIV/AIDS". The 15 billion USD donated by the US government to combat this disease is an important first step, however until the African Union is given the full support it needs to set its projects into operation effectively, aid programs like this will generate billions of dollars of capital spent but the results of the investment will never reach expectations.

There are only 2.5 million out-of-school children in industrialized countries, whereas in Sub-Saharan Africa, the figure stands at 46,000,000 and has been rising constantly after 1990. This has catastrophic effects on the development of communities in future and leaves children open to exploitation. The development policies based on western standards and using western control models are not working.

Finally, the architecture of the world's financial system is not inclusive of Africa, a continent which has been a chronic victim of an unequal fight. Exploited for its resources during centuries of colonialism, Africa then saw its communities pulled apart by politicians drawing straight lines on maps from afar and then destroyed as sides were formed and then armed and instigated into conflict, normally to serve outside interests.

What Africa needs is for the New Partnership for Development (NEPAD) to be taken seriously and respected, together with non-intrusive and altruistic programs of aid, based on local norms and not imposed top-down, for the African Union to be given a chance and for the WTO members to practise what they preach, allowing African producers to compete on a level footing and finally, a deep-cutting debt-relief policy, remembering the resources which were plundered and never paid for in the past.

Otherwise, when an African has to pay ten times more for an internet connection, telephone link or airline ticket than a European or US citizen, what chance does he have of even beginning to compete?