An Kenyan expert in economics, James Shikwati, was interviewed by the German magazine Der Spiegel. The interview got off to a quick start as Shikwati surprised the journalist.
SPIEGEL:Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa…
Shikwati: … for God’s sake, please just stop.
SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.
Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.
Massive injections of money, good intentions, and virtually nothing to show for it. Sounds just like the welfare state here. The journalist is confused, bewildered.
SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?
Why is it a paradox if it simply a case of doing what doesn’t work on a much larger scale? This exposes the incredibly simplistic assumption on the part of liberal ideology that throwing money a a problem really should work…in theory. As conservatives have been arguing for decades, however, an understanding of economics helps explain this “paradox”. In answer to the question, Shikwati explains.
Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.
Being taught to be beggars, dependence on government, dampening entrepreneurship, and government corruption involved in the cash transfer. Sounds just like the welfare…well, you get the idea.
Well, now our journalist is flummoxed. Doesn’t someone have to help them? Shikwati slaps down this dependency thinking, and explains how food shipments both prop up corrupt governments and at the same time destroy the local economy’s incentive.
SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.
Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there’s a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program — which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It’s only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it’s not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa …
SPIEGEL: … corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers …
Shikwati: … and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN’s World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It’s a simple but fatal cycle.
And it just gets better after that. It included an admission from a tyrant that they indeed waste the aid, a exposure of exaggerated AIDS numbers for profit, and an African biochemist stuck being a chauffeur to aid workers. You simply must read the whole thing. It really turns on its head the idea that huge amounts of aid helps a nation, or even a continent. Giving to the poor is one thing. Destroying the individual spirit by destroying their livelihood is entirely another. The interview concludes with the journalist, playing the part of the liberal to the hilt (and, based on the full interview, not really play-acting) asking in desperation…
SPIEGEL: What are the Germans supposed to do?
Shikwati: If they really want to fight poverty, they should completely halt development aid and give Africa the opportunity to ensure its own survival. Currently, Africa is like a child that immediately cries for its babysitter when something goes wrong. Africa should stand on its own two feet.
Rugged individualism, combined with personal, not massive, charitable giving. That is the responsible position.
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