By Hannes Wessels –
I write as an African and about Africa when I say I find the ‘2014 Gates Annual Letter’ nauseating. For two people of undoubted intelligence one can only conclude that they continue to peddle this drivel because they love the love of the moronic multitude clamouring for some (dare I say) ‘white’ knight to rid their forsaken souls of the mortal sin committed when they were born Caucasian and became prosperous.
Just looking at the ‘then and now’ photos of Nairobi one can only conclude that in their desire to deceive they don’t expect too many of their readers to possess much over half a brain-cell. The one is dark and underexposed and the other bright and colourful leading us to believe aid has turned a soiled city into a metropolitan marvel.
This is bunk. Kibera, a suburb, is one of the biggest slums in Africa. Over one million people are packed into one square mile living in miserable squalor in a city of 4 million set to double in 15 years. Then bear in mind the beastly Brits who colonised the country only planned for a population of 250,000. Despite untold billions in Western subsidies precious little found its way into improving the municipal infrastructure and the city seems set to choke on congestion.
“First,” we are then told, “don’t let anyone tell you that Africa is worse off today than it was 50 years ago.”
Well Dambisa Moyo from Zambia, a former Harvard and Oxford educated economist who held a senior position at the World Bank and author of ‘Dead Aid. Why Aid is not Working and Why there is another Way for Africa’ differs rather stridently.
She mentions a staggering $1 trillion that has been ‘gifted’ to Africa in 60 years and insists that despite this unprecedented generosity (most of which I must add came from the West) the number of impoverished Africans living on less than $1 a day has doubled in the last 20 years.
I have lived all over Africa and in 57 years of close observation I have seen nary a sign of where this largesse was sensibly spent.
Gates goes on to say, “Seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the past half-decade are in Africa.” What he either does not know (unlikely) or chooses to ignore is that virtually all of this is resource driven, has nothing to do with the ‘sustainable growth’ he claims and almost none of this bounty filters down to the poor.
Africa remains by far the most corrupt continent. Transparency International recently reported that illicit transfers out of Africa far exceed the total value of all foreign aid to the continent (currently estimated at between $40-50 billion a year).
One of the country’s showing impressive ‘growth’ is oil rich Angola where it is estimated a small cabal of President Dos Santos cronies who constitute the ‘leadership’ grab a third of gross oil receipts. Forbes reports his daughter Isabel is worth $3 billion.
In a recent scam in Nigeria (also ‘growing’ fast) one politically connected company nicked a quick $6,9 billion in oil revenues.
But Bill and Melinda, in their whimsical wisdom, see corruption as a trifling problem, exaggerated by selfish white people who are reluctant to contribute more to the African aid fest. “I worry about the myth that aid doesn’t work. It gives political leaders an excuse to try to cut back on it.”
We are then instructed to note the “relative size of the problem. Small scale corruption, such as a government official who puts in for phony travel expenses, is an inefficiency that amounts to a tax on aid.” Having dispensed with that challenge and just in case the reader might be mulling over this point, the reader is then rapidly reminded that ‘four of the past seven governors of Illinois have gone to prison for corruption, ..’ True indeed, and we know corruption is a global problem, but the point missed here is in the US you might go to prison for malfeasance, in Africa you don’t.
And this is the nub of the tough nut the Gates choose not to crack because it may upset their fans. Africa is a mess getting messier because of rank bad governance and the virtual absence of the rule of law leaving human and property rights open to routine violation. But lectures on bad governance always trigger the same reaction from the accused; ‘racism’ and ‘neo-colonialism’ always put critics to flight and the Gates need to avoid that at all costs so better stick with the tried and tested ‘politically correct’ approach and glory in the raptures of the faithful fools they preach to.
If the Gates think the African political leadership takes the fight against poverty seriously they will surely cheer Robert Mugabe’s recent promotion to Vice President of the African Union’s Executive Council making him likely to be the next chairman. Mugabe has set the pace recently in devising new ways to destroy an economy and reduce people to misery and this seems to have the fervent support of his African peers who the Gates seem to hold in some esteem.
Against this backdrop the Gates assure their readers that, “…broadly speaking, aid is a fantastic investment, and we should be doing more.” This is astonishing. One must ask would Mr. Gates or Mr. Buffett encourage investment in an American company where it is well known the management are purloining the bulk of the profits?
The fact that the Gates (and presumably the Buffetts) are chucking their well deserved wealth down a big black hole is their problem not mine; but what is in my area of interest is the damage this misguided philanthropy is doing.
The biggest threat to the continental environment and quality of life is over population and this is where the Gates really hit their straps. With Africa presently boasting the worlds fastest growing population they trumpet their successes in stimulating this process while ignoring the consequences. Instead of focusing on greater parental responsibility they seem to have concluded that more people equals prosperity through stronger economic growth and this is a dangerous and damaging illusion.
Glibly, we are told; “Human beings are not machines. We don’t reproduce mindlessly. We make decisions based on the circumstances we face.”
Well that might be the case where they come from but it’s not true of Africa where tens of millions of destitute children provide heartbreaking testimony to the fact their parents gave little or no thought to how they were going to support their progeny at time of procreation. These forsaken people, through no fault of their own, are highly unlikely to ever play any significant role in wealth creation. The vast majority will end up foraging in the city slums and the rest will lead primitive, subsistence lives relying on small-scale agriculture. Lacking expertise and equipment this inevitably means traditional ‘slash and burn’ farming leading, to unrelenting deforestation, leaching of soils, silting of rivers and death to fish and wildlife. Vast tracts of the continent have already been reduced to sterile dust-bowls in this process and thanks to the Gates this problem will be exacerbated.
By 2035 Bill and Melinda dream of no more poverty. Well they can also dream of millions of miserable paupers, a moribund landscape with no more trees, no more wildlife and barren soils where little or nothing survives.