Sunday, July 10, 2005
ON THE CONTRARY, A BEGGAR HAS A CHOICE
LIVE-8, G-8 and Debt Relief
No matter how much help you try to give people in need, it is never enough and they are never satisfied that sometimes it makes one not want to help at all. the kind of help that is meant to go towards alleviating poverty and AIDS in Africa, there is always something to complain about and several people, including the Africans complaining. It happens every time. One day it’s the American government is not giving enough funding to Africa even after the Bush administration pledged to double the level of aid to the continent to $8.6 billion by 2010, provide $15 billion to combat the AIDS pandemic and spend $1.2 billion on the malaria scourge. Many forget there leaders, who are supposed to custodians of the national cake, own bank accounts which can buy over two countries, pay the debt of a third and still have change to spare. We even do it to our own leaders who are making an effort to combat corruption and facilitate economic reform. I can go on and on about the things that we Africans complain about, even though we are the ones who are being helped. It makes one wonder if the saying, “a beggar has no choice,” still holds water. Is it that the Africans are mere ingrates who do not appreciate the generosity displayed by these philanthropists in the western hemisphere or that there are fundamental errors of judgment in the approach taken by these goodwill ambassadors.
As much as I appreciate their genuine compassion displayed in their charity works, the donations that both governments and celebrities make to the cause, I do not appreciate the blankets of insults that are heaped upon the continents people in the process. Take as an example the just concluded Live-8 music concert organized by rock star Bob Geldof (truth be told, I never heard of him until talks of the concert), U2 front man Bono and the director of Four Weddings and Funeral. This concert was held in eight countries that make up the G-8; it would coincide with the beginning of the G-8 summit being held in Scotland. The purpose of the concert was to call people across the world to lend their voice to the call for debt relief, more aid and better trade policies for the world’s poorest countries, of which a third of them are in Africa. This was a noble effort but it was tainted by the fact that African artistes were not involved or billed to perform in the first instance. The reason, I either read or heard listening to commentaries on radio and television, was that African musicians would not attract an audience. What bullocks! I don’t know who or what gave that impression. It is like saying to the family of your bride-to-be that they cannot keep up appearance and therefore they are not invited to the wedding; that is grounds to reject any bride-price, cattle or kegs of palm-wine that have been exchanged. According to CNN, the concert in Johannesburg and a small one in southwest England, which featured African artistes, were not even in the original rundown. It wasn’t until people began to raise questions, and started talking about the fact that the people for whom the concert was set up, were missing from the star-studded line up did they rush to organize those. It is because of attitudes like this; the lack of mutual respect, that all the complaining and the seeming appearance of ungratefulness exists, not because we do not appreciate good measure. Sometimes it gets so infuriating, that I say ‘to damnation with your money, we can do it ourselves’, but that would be adamant pride speaking. Africa’s problem is a global one, one of global, if not western making; therefore it must be solved by global effort. However, we should not be rubbished in the process. It is bad enough that leaders have been reduced to beggars, gallivanting from one G-8 country to another, some rightfully to correct mistakes of past leaders while others shamelessly asking for one concession after another and diverting the generated funds to personal investments. The least we can have as a people is a dignity that is intact.
Speaking on debt relief, I think it is one of the most pro-active things that the western governments have done. I would hope they would take it a step further by changing economic policies towards the continent. It is one thing to cancel debt, but if there are no means to generate funds bolster and create a progressive economy or strengthen African currencies, the effort is futile. It remains to be seen what will come of this, it would be foolish not to take advantage of this opportunity to revamp the continent economically.