May 11, 2010

Aid shame

As I was preparing my post yesterday about pan-Africanism and unifying Africa, I couldn’t get past the parallels drawn with the European Union. The EU has been held up as an example of what the African Union should strive to become – modern democratic societies working in partnership to promote “peace, prosperity and freedom for its…citizens - in a fairer, safer world”.

However, the past few months have revealed turbulence in the once calm seas of European harmony. With the increasing likelihood of Greece defaulting on its debt, and possibly dragging down other countries with it this has sent a panic in international markets and protesters to the streets.

Greece has invoked IMF help, and the response has been very telling. According to Greek nationals recently surveyed, requesting foreign aid is “humiliating” and “shameful”, and as one publication has put it – “they have given the keys of the country to the IMF.” The IMF’s reputation for harsh reforms and interference is well known, and this is being railed against. However, I can’t keep a smirk off my face as I think of the irony in all this. Requesting aid is obviously something only “third world” countries do, we seemingly have no pride or what little pride we had was cast off decades ago as we first held up our begging bowl.

I really hope policy makers and leaders in Africa are paying attention and heeding the lesson.

The lessons here for Africa are the weaknesses and limitations of the EU model, lasting consequences of unchecked borrowing and spending, the reality of external influences exerted by when we accept “handouts", and the perception of being seen as beggars when receiving foreign assistance. 

We do not need more time and money wasted at AU conferences talking about a unified African government with a single currency, a single constitution, and Gaddafi as our supreme leader! African countries need to leverage and develop their own market systems for the benefit of their people; with enterprises that transform natural resources to wealth, and provide long-lasting solutions. 

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