Saturday, September 09, 2006

Trade Not Aid

When people ask me why I think aid is such a problem I tell them that it's basically the crack/cocaine of the global economy and then they get it. They don't understand all the massive complexities because unless you were heavily involved in aid you wouldn't see these. But everyone understands addictions and what perpetuating them can do especially in Vancouver where we have such a huge drug problem right in the city.

When you see a drug addict your first thought is that the drug is the problem and if that could be taken away or weaned off of then everything would be okay. But drug users are much more complicated and interesting than that. Many of them have lived multi-generational lives in addict families where physical and sexual violence, systemic poverty and racism also is prevalent.

The real story that will come out of Africa is 50 years from now when the healing is occurring. Now it's about survival but if we look at our first nations people who have healed mostly in the past 20 years, they're starting to get their fair share of the ecomomy and only now are we hearing the stories of how bad the oppression and abuse really was during the past 100 years. The psychic or emotional healing is still to come.

So I believe the sooner all this crack aid stops the better off Africa will be. It's maddening for me to have the little kids come up to me on the streets begging with these fake voices of sympathy pleading with me when I have just seen them moments ago laughing and playing soccer. I know they're homeless and I know they're hungry but I also know they have more dignity than they let me see because I am mzungu they see me as a charity hit. So I tell them not to beg and they get angry with me because this is all they know. It's an addiction with no solution unless a whole new approach comes along.

This is what aid does and the kids in Africa are far better than the circumstances it breeds for them to live under. The most stable and properous economies in the world do not have aid. My dream for the future is to see the emptying of all the offices in all the United Nations buildings around the world. And all the charities and all the NGO's lose their workers because there is nothing left for them to do. This is supposed to be the goal. Aid is supposed to end so why aren't we starting with this?

So many African economies are completely hijacked by aid and if you told the aid agencies to pack their bags and get lost what do you think they'd say? They tell us they are there 'to help' but when you look at how many employees and vehicles and meal vouchers this adds up to - you have to wonder. It's a complete economy really - with it's own CEO's, accountants and job seekers.

I tell my African friends if there is one criticism I have of them it's that they are far too polite. But there is a growing movement to get rid of aid and all it's addictions in Africa which is so great and something I can't wait to be around again because over here in North America we just don't get it. We want the tax relief, we want the valour of our names being on an Endownment Fund, we want to say - we helped to save Africans so in part we can feel better about our wealth. It seems we're doing the right thing by donating or volunteering but when it comes down to the more difficult and threatening concept of actually sharing our trading strengths this is where it gets a little mirky for people.

Do we need the poor countries to stay poor so the rest of us can afford our lattes and t-shirts and dollar stores? Does the global economy depend on some of us serving others? Will the world allow a value-added Africa?

Our first shirts start going in the mail next week. We'll see what consumers say about all this.

Uhuru for Africa


Blogger N.D. Manu said...

Right on with your observations on aid. I am optimistic that in time Africa will rise and advance because of its human spirit and not because of some "aid" program.

Keep up the good work and check out my blog too.

10:59 AM  

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