What the World Should Celebrate
By Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe (July 11, 2005)
The usual outcome of G8 summits - no movement in the relationship between western leaders and Africa - is writ large in the Gleneagles summit communiqué. There is, for instance, no western arms ban on Africa. If Britain, the summit host, was really serious about confronting the crucial issue facing the continent, it should have declared a comprehensive arms embargo on Africa. After all, Britain is Africa’s leading arms exporter, earning it the handsome sum of $1.8 billion in 2004. 15 million Africans have been murdered in genocidal wars and other conflicts that ruthless African regimes, relying on British and other arms, have waged in Biafra, Rwanda, Darfur and elsewhere on the continent in the past forty years.
But in contrast to the understandable disappointment of the western “aid” industry that “specialises” in Africa, the continent is not upset by the lack of “more [immediate] aid” from the west after Gleneagles. This outcome is no tragedy at all. “Aid” or handouts of any kind are never the way to transform the lives of any peoples, and Africans are no exception. The army of western NGOs operating in Africa largely share with Africa’s corrupt leaderships the scandalous employment opportunities and largesse distributed by “aid” from the west to Africa. These NGOs increasingly oversee the implementation of a plethora of autarchic programmes on the ground with scant coordination and coherence in their region of operation, far less with the national context as a whole. In the end, the people are worse off.
Ironically, Tony Blair made an astonishing remark at Gleneagles that challenged the abiding assumptions of paternalism central to western leaders’ approach to relations between Africa and the west. To the obvious consternation of the African leaders present (who had earlier been categorised pointedly as “beggars” by their Libyan colleague in a pre-Gleneagles African Union summit in Sirte) and the visible irritation of the “aid” representatives, Blair said that “the only people who can change Africa ultimately are the Africans.” This home truth is undoubtedly a turning-point that will differentiate Gleneagles from past G8 summits.
Africans are already transforming their societies on the ground. The World Bank, which in alliance with the IMF and African leaderships of the past thirty years contributed to the virtual destruction of the African economy in its so-called “structural adjustment programme”, now acknowledges that Africans are the principal source of investment in Africa. In 2003, African émigrés transferred the gargantuan sum of $200 billion to Africa – investing directly in their communities. Africans will achieve the task that they have set for themselves. This, surely, is what the world should be celebrating.
Originally appeared in opendemocracy.net.