At least 9000 Africans lost their lives from election related violence in the last decade. The highest fatalities were recorded in Ivory Coast’s 2011 post election violence which claimed an estimated 3,000 lives. Post election violence in Kenya’s 2007 elections left at least 1,300 dead.
Immediate past President of Nigeria and recently appointed Chair of the Common-wealth election observer mission to Tanzania Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was celebrated on his recent visit to Tanzania as `a hero of free and fair election in Africa’, `a democrat who has pointed the way forward for Africa’, and an African leader who `may very well have averted bloodshed that is characteristic of incumbent leaders who cling to power’. Hopefully other Presidents in the continent are watching. There is a political life and a wider reaching and more influential role after a Presidential role.
The African Union has just voted to take a tougher stand on Burundi. The current President’s decision to run for a third term unconstitutionally is creating violence with significant humanitarian consequences; over 127,000 Burundians have fled the country.
While watching Burundi, we are keeping an eye on Central Africa Republic where the October 18, 2015 elections were postponed to 2016 due to ongoing conflict and instability. We are glad that Ivory Coast voted its President in for another five years without bloodshed. We note concerns from observers that the elections were not fair and free, but right now we are more concerned with saving lives. We cannot continue to shed the blood of Africans in the misuse and abuse of democracy.
By Choice Ufuoma Okoro
Photo: Courtesy of Vanguard Newspaper, Nigeria
The first and most important question is whether indeed Africa is better or worse off with foreign aid. The second most important question is why rich countries prefer to treat African countries like their invalid cousins in need of help. What does African countries really need? Foreign Direct Investments or AID?
It is impossible to believe or imagine that about $50 billion international aid comes to Africa each year and there are calls for that amount to be doubled. One will probably need a pair of binoculars to see what impact or positive difference this colossal amount is making in Africa. It seems more true to say that these monies end up in the pockets of leaders of the receiving countries and the aid workers. Because of access to 'free' money, many African Countries are not encouraged to be innovative and think of ways to solve their problems. We have found ourselves in self-imposed quagmire and cycle of poverty, corruption and lack of economic growth. Yes aid to Africa has made it poorer. The person who receives aid wrongly assumes that the aid giver does not need it. Of course that is not true. There is always an agenda behind every aid that is given which is never openly spelt out or even discussed. African countries will never develop or overcome the shackles of poverty and under-development as long as we allow so-called rich countries to throw money at us. We cannot be said to be truly free if we live off handouts from rich countries. What is more baffling is that no one is thinking of the long term negative implications of this form of neo-colonialism.
Aid is bad for Africa and somehow, we must grow the balls and have the sincerity of purpose to say no and insist on trade and capacity building instead of aid. Of course, aid appears easier but it will perpetually keep the people in poverty and want. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) alluded to this in a report titled "Aid will not lift growth in Africa" published in 2005. In the report, IMF warned that governments, donors and campaigners and pop stars need to be far more modest in their claims that increased aid will solve Africa's problems. It is not a coincidence that there is huge poverty and negative social indicators in the African Countries that benefit the most from aid. In the last Sixty years, over $1 trillion of aid has come to Africa from rich countries. Despite this, real per-capital income is lower today compared to say thirty years ago and nearly half of the African population live on less than $1 a day.
The point must be made that there is an inverse relationship between aid and trade or foreign direct investment. Simply, aid makes the receiving countries totally unattractive for serious investments. It is like the relationship between light and darkness. The preponderance of aid in a country extinguishes opportunities for foreign investments. Instead of begging or seeking aid, what we should be doing is seeking ways to promote trade and investment in Africa. Traditionally, when the world's richest nations gather, the only thing that is mentioned about Africa is how to help them. This narrative should change to how can we do business with them. But let's not kid ourselves because this is not going to just happen without some work and sacrifice. The first and probably the most difficult is the building and strengthening of institutions of government and civil society. Second, the respective countries need to build an environment that is conducive for business by putting in place policies and programmes that will encourage people to come and invest in Africa. Doing business in Africa today is expensive and cumbersome for anyone willing to come and invest in the continent. We must deliberately build a system that makes it easy by reducing the unnecessary bottlenecks people go through to be able to start business in our countries.
Yes there is a conflict between aid and trade because clearly they do not co-exist. Ultimately, the choice is ours and is simple. We can remain where we are today, do nothing and continue to live off the handouts given us by rich countries. We can refuse to build institutions to encourage investments and discourage corruption. We can adamantly insist on not encouraging enterprise and entrepreneurship through policy somersaults and reversals. We can continue to divert funds intended to provide social services into private pockets. If we like, we can neglect our infrastructure, schools and hospitals so that the rich will continue to send their kids to foreign universities and hospitals in developed countries. Our government officials can continue to fly first and business classes when most of our children go to bed hungry. Our government officials can continue to buy and fly private jest because our roads are in deplorable conditions. Or we can make the more difficult decision to build a society where there is fairness and where our common wealth is not shared by a select few. We can build an economy where people are willing to invest and a country where every child is assured of three meals a day and they can go to school in peace and quiet. We can build a society where we can live in mutual respect and where we are happy to live and raise our children. Other countries will be willing to trade with us if we make this decision. The world's biggest names and brands will happily come here and establish businesses. Major automobile manufacturers will readily build their plants here knowing that their businesses are safe. But we must first make that tough choice.
Martins Itua is a Banker and social commentator
Two contrasting narratives currently exist side by side in the public domain about Ethiopia. One of such narratives celebrates the country as the fastest growing economy in Africa. This angle is captured by articles like, `Ethiopia’s Currently Has the Fastest Growing Economy in Africa’: http://atlantablackstar.com/2015/07/31/ethiopias-economy-currently-fastest-growing-economy-africa/. Two paragraphs; the second and concluding paragraphs of the article reads;
`The Ethiopian economy is currently the fastest growing economy in Africa and the third fastest growing economy in the world. It grew from roughly three percent in early 1990s to an average of ten percent in the last ten years – an economy that is growing at ten per cent a year doubles every seven years. At this rate, by 2030, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Ethiopia, which is now estimated at $51 billion, will grow to $213 billion. And at that level of GDP, Ethiopia will then become a middle-income nation, which is exactly what the Ethiopian government is aiming to achieve in the year 2025.’
The long-term economic outlook is even much brighter. Many factors that are conducive to economic growth such as experience gained through the years of high economic growth, increasing government budget due to booming economy and enhanced revenue collection system, expanded network of roads and upgraded railroads, and availability of affordable electricity are expected to keep the Ethiopian economy on a path of continuous growth over many years.’
The second narrative calls for urgent humanitarian intervention in the country with looming El Nino/drought exemplified by articles like this `The Impending Crisis in Ethiopia: A Costly Delay’; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/courtenay-cabot-venton/the-impending-crisis-in-e_b_8363094.html. See first and concluding paragraphs below:
`Ethiopia is yet again facing a humanitarian crisis that looks set to devastate much of the country's population. Despite impressive growth figures over the last decade, 20 million Ethiopians are still under the poverty line. El Nino related weather is causing drought, destroying any chance of sustained poverty reduction.’
` Unfortunately, history has repeatedly shown that response to these crises typically arrives late. The delay in response is an outcome of a variety of different factors; one that is often credited is the so-called 'CNN effect'. Despite knowing what looms ahead, aid agencies can't raise funds to avert a crisis until significant media and public attention is generated. Funding begins to flow with images of starving children, at which point the crisis is in full swing, and incredibly hard to stop.’
With over ten years of humanitarian work in Africa, I am dismayed at the pre-conception humanitarian actors have of what populations affected by disasters or conflict need. We think emergency relief and aid should be limited to the provision of bare `life saving’ essentials like food aid, non-food items, and tents. But here this man informs me earnestly that what he needs is security. He was one amongst 10,000 + people displaced in Nasarawa; the middle belt of Nigeria; after an inter-communal conflict. In response to my question on what kind of relief materials the displaced people would like was this response from one of the internally displaced; to quote him, `I am a proud man and I can cater for my family. I am a farmer with lands waiting to be harvested. I don’t need food aid, I need security so I can go back to my farm and take care of my family.’
THE ART AND ACT OF MAKING CHOICES
Greetings and welcome to ChoicePowerPost.
Decades of international humanitarian action in Africa is redefining and has to a large extent redefined the identity and character of many African countries. In some countries in the continent, humanitarian aid narratives have skewed the national development aspirations. Many African countries only exist in the international arena as recipients of aid. My mission in this blog is to advocate for more reflections into why and how international humanitarian action is implemented in Africa, as well as to promote an Africa that is succeeding in managing its humanitarian challenges and building solid economic opportunities.
I was born in Nigeria, and have over 25 years experience in human rights and international humanitarian affairs acquired from working in more than 10 countries including in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.