Lampedusa has returned to the news lately as waves of thousands of new migrants pour onto the island after being rescued in the Mediterranean under the “Mare Nostrum” operation.
Many thanks to JLH for translating this article from Die Preußische Allgemeine Zeitung about the consequences of the disastrous aid policies towards Africa pursued by the West, especially Germany:
Lampedusa is a Symptom of the Sickness
Inappropriate development aid complicit in the flood of migration — too little pressure on the ruling cliques
by Volker Seitz
June 2, 2014
In 2013, Germany paid out €10.6 billion in development aid, which is 0.38% of gross domestic product. Actually, Berlin has pledged to try to achieve 0.7% for poverty relief. But are those who need help faring any better? Volker Seitz* — who served in various capacities for the Foreign Office in Niger, Guinea and Libya among others, and sequentially as ambassador to Benin, Armenia and Cameroon — has his doubts:
For over 50 years, the poorhouse that is Africa has been an experimental laboratory for the developmental aid industry. Inappropriate administration of the aid has contributed substantially to the fact that we still feel excessively responsible for the development of Africa. Acting from this perspective contravenes the principle of subsidiarity, because it obstructs and minimizes the individual responsibility of the partners. Those affected are not asked what they think of development aid or what in their opinion could help them. Regarding Africans as wards is the unstated operating principle of most “projects.” The number of critics of classical developmental aid has grown steadily in recent years. Individual aid projects may well be sensible. But projects do not take the place of structure.
Among the sharpest critics are the Nigerian Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, the Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda, the commentator Akua Djane from Ghana, the Nigerian writer Chika Onyeani, as well as the Ghanian economist George Ayittey. They reject a role as dependent victim and supplicant. “African countries have thus far consistently pursued the policy of the collection box and always begged: more help, more help, more help. That must change; but it cannot change so long as the great countries of Europe and elsewhere emphasize the importance of aid,” says Themba Sono, an economist from South Africa. For decades, traditional development policy has acted as if the improvement of living conditions in Africa were primarily dependent upon the amount of aid monies. It was said that aid was a humane commandment. Anyone who thinks differently is heartless. There is a clinging to the idea of doing something good, even though the reality has long since proven this false. From my 17-year experience as a German diplomat in various capacities, I know that most development aid funds have really only gone to two groups: on the one hand, the ruling cliques in Africa with their mismanagement and misappropriation; and on the other, those who establish and maintain a developmental aid economy in the industrialized states. Hardly any help comes to the needy, to the destitute local population.
It is hard to fight the decades of development aid ideology. It was proven long ago that where there is no rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights, corruption is endemic. In that situation, aid money brings nothing — not humanity, not growth. Prosperity and welfare do not come from distribution of money but from the establishment of entrepreneurial creativity, from innovation — and from good governmental framework conditions. Since 1990, the population of sub-Saharan Africa has almost doubled. Nigeria has a population of 160 million. UN predictions are of a rise of 730 million by the year 2100. No advance in prosperity will suffice with such an extreme population growth. Who will feed these people? The aid industry is not addressing these facts and is instead making the West responsible for Africa’s continued plight — thus assuring itself a gold-plated source of income. “Love thy neighbor” may feel good, but it does nothing lasting to solve problems. The poor would rather do something for themselves. Just as the money of the euro-saviors actually does no good for those suffering in debtor states, but for the creditor banks, so developmental aid finances and stabilizes corrupt regimes. Many African economies are suffering from the fact there is no functioning tax system. Without aid, the regimes would have to support industry, agriculture and trade, raise taxes — and would therefore be obligated to their people.
A big problem almost everywhere is preservation of existing infrastructure. Nothing is invested in maintenance, so the infrastructure deteriorates, electricity and water fail, until a donor country puts it back into order. Lampedusa is a symptom of a sickness that begins in the poorly governed countries of Africa. To avoid repetitive new Lampedusas, pressure from the donors must be exerted — much more decisively than it has until now — to change the local conditions.
A larger proportion of German aid should be converted into risk capital. With the establishment of business plans, free entrepreneurship — and thus jobs — could be encouraged . Local knowhow and comprehensive, multi-year supervision could become a key to success. Local people — with the exception of the ministries — often produce the best solutions. Factories for canned goods, cement, pharmaceuticals and sugar could be built with credits, and not only a qualified workforce, but also an African management could be trained.
So, schooling in entrepreneurship through practical application at home, rather than study abroad. The African diaspora could be useful here. In Germany alone, the African diaspora amounts to thousands of people. The (temporary) return of some of them could bring new ideas and capital for new entrepreneurs.
|*||Volker Seitz is the author of Afrika wird armregiert oder Wie man Afrika wirklich helfen kann. [Africa Is “Poorly” Governed or How Africa Can Really Be Helped]