My sister weighs in this post but first, a link to must-read articles related to the subject:
-Faking Africa and stories of vanity (blacklooks.0rg)
"the emphasis is on these two rock stars with diamond studs + a bunch of grey suits talking about us as if we are children - worse actually talking about us in our presence as if we are not there."
-showcasing africa or its glamorous patrons ? (Tony Karon):
"Only three of those featured are actual Africans: the actor (and editor’s consultant) Djimon Hounsou, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Iman. (Three and a half, if you count U.S. presidential longshot Barack Obama, another cover model, by virtue of being the son of a Kenyan economist.) Not exactly a new brand of Africa: Hounsou is largely a product of Hollywood; Tutu, with respect, has retired from his life as an activist cleric; and Iman’s only qualification is that she was a well-known model in 1980s."
-Judging a magazine by its cover: (Ethan Zuckerman)
"If you want to understand why so many Africans are upset about how they’re portrayed in the northern media, this issue wouldn’t be a bad place to start."
le symdrome Bono (en Francais sur soblogue.com):
"La première étape est de changer l'objectif au coeur de la croisade en faveur de l'Afrique. Ce n'est pas pour de l'aide qu'il faut faire des concerts à travers le monde, c'est pour la liberté et le respect des droits et de la démocratie."
Here is Randiana's take on aid in Africa:
Have you ever thought about what a glossy magazine can trigger? Last Vanity Cover wit Bono and 21 celebrities provoked a web-wide wave of protests, ranging from indignation with the shocking instrumentalisation of extreme poverty to the participation in reinforcing afro-pessimism with its predictable consequences on brain drain, investment, and …aid. Precisely, is more aid needed for Africa? Or is the real question: which aid for which Africa? Is, as Nobel Prize Yunus once said, “charity, the hidden face of contempt”? How aid can become detrimental to sustainable development, and paradoxically trigger the opposite of its goals?
To us public opinion, which includes tax payers who finance international aid, charity sponsors and citizen-donors alike, needs to have a clear view of accountability: that of African leaders, G8 decisions makers, Bretton Woods institutions, NGOs, African citizens and their own. Can and should Bono and his friends help?
1. Aid in Africa status: is more aid needed for Africa?
a. Poverty in 2006, defined. To avoid confusion, let’s agree on what is poverty. The Human Development Indicator (HDI), a composite of various indicators o is used by the UN and Bretton Woods institutions to . So bluntly and briefly described, extreme poverty is, as described in UN Human Development report in 2006. lacking access to clean water , living without sanitation on less than $2 a day.
b. Three Major issues: According to the same report, there are 3 major pressing challenges when it comes to tackling poverty.
i. Few developing countries have put infrastructure and particularly access to water and sanitation as a priority
ii. Second, the poorest are often paying the highest price to basic sanitation, reflecting the state of the slums they live in
iii. Third, the international community has failed to tackle the above issue and treat them as priority in the development partnership they have settled with the countries in need.
Underlying these three issues, the report adds, is the lack of political voices of poor people to asset their claims on basic infrastructure, if and when they exist.
c. Where Aid failed: The last challenge, the failure of international aid to reach its poverty ending goal, has triggered many criticisms, well before Bono called the world’s attention on a persistent state of poverty. Among them, and the most virulent one was Graham Hancock, author of “Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business” in 1989. He writes, p190:
“the ugly reality is that most poor people in most poor countries most of the time never receive or even make contact with aid in any tangible shape or form: whether it is present or absent, increased or decreased, are thus issues that are simply irrelevant to the ways is which they conduct their daily lives. After the multi-billion-dollar 'financial flows' involved have been shaken through the sieve of overpriced and irrelevant goods that must be bought in the donor countries, filtered again in the deep pockets of hundreds of thousands of foreign experts and aid agency staff, skimmed off by dishonest commission agents, and stolen by corrupt Ministers and Presidents, there is really very little left to go around. This little, furthermore, is then used thoughtlessly, or maliciously, or irresponsibly by those in power -- who have no mandate from the poor, who do not consult with them and who are utterly indifferent to their fate."
d. Not that Hancock is an absolute authority in the debate over aid, but his comments reflect most of western tax payers’ fatigue in paying for development, yet not seeing tangible results of their efforts. The very recent complain deposited by a French NGO againt President Bongo of Gabon and President Sassou N’Guesso of Congo is illustrating this exasperation. If the allegation proves right, then international aid would have financed the purchase of luxury “hotels particuliers” in fancy residential Paris for the personal use of these two presidents. The list is unfortunately not exhaustive.
e. The rush to alternate ways of “doing good” has benefited NGOs industry, where the citizen donor feels his money lies in safer hands, and above all, will land on the intended target. But, there, NGOs suffer from scarcity of resources, lack of political voices to get government and international support.
So should AID stop?
To be continued.....
PS: As Harinjaka pointed out, the TED conference was a bit lacking in African french-speakers. I am working on a French translation of this post; It's really too bad if African french-speakers were left out of this conversation.