An Atypical African Argument Against American Aid

Today, while I was going through my emails about Japan (more on that later), I conversation I had with my former co-worker, Azwinndini Ratshionya, told me about Western aid to Africa. Azwi loves Africa more than the sun loves the Japanese flag. Before he spoke, he warned me, “I don’t think you’re going to like what I’m about to say.”

“You ruined our land by coming in, and you’re still ruining it!” Everyone knows that much of the money meant for African peasants is invested their soldiers and their dictators’ weaponry collections instead. But the aid that is successfully delivered can be equally harmful. Food aid, which the U.S. farm lobby insists on sending, undermines local farmers, because no one can compete with free food. It encourages people to be lazy: we work so we can eat, but if you can eat without working, why work? There are much more enjoyable things you could be doing. Finally, it fuels unsustainable birthrates: if someone else is going to take care of your kids, why worry about how many you can have? Better to have more so you look more successful.

“We have been blessed by God,” he said. “We have so many resources…” he specified the gifts that certain countries have. “So why are we starving?”

Azwi isn’t against all aid. He lead a campaign to send hundreds of kilograms of school materials from Japan to struggling schools in Zimbabwe. He thinks the West should help fix the mess it made. He just wants us to be more circumspect. I told him he was right.

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