The G8 on Africa … what would I know

This whole G8 summit thing on Africa … I don’t know … what do you think?Geldof and Bono have slammed it calling it a pantomime and farcical, and campaigners for Africa suggest the £30 billion pledge will fall short of what’s needed.

The money is destined to fight disease – malaria, TB and Aids – in Africa.

How come nobody ever talks about addressing the root problem of these diseases? How come nobody ever talks about education? Ronald Ross – who discovered that it was mosquitoes that transmitted the malarial parasite and how – put in place vector control programs and drastically reduced the mortality rate. Ask most rural Africans where malaria comes from and they won’t be able to tell you. The study of the malarial genome, the potential discovery of an anti-malaria vaccine, glow-in-the-dark mozzies, it’s all great science, it all makes riveting news, but what about common or garden preventative measures?

Africa needs education and a commercial leg-up more than it needs charity. Both would promote long-term health (in the population and the economy). Where once subsistence farmers tried to eke a living out of their land, many now sit under trees waiting for aid trucks. What if they stop coming? Or what when their contents are hijacked by greedy politicians?

The thing about Africa is that you need to know it intimately to understand its machinations. Idealism is fine. In theory. But in Africa a little cynicism works better. As Rehema – who has helped me to raise my children – comments, ‘why do the poor people in the West keep giving money to the rich people in Africa, none of that’s going to come my way, Memsahib’. And she laughs wryly.

If I had been at the G8 summit I’d have suggested teaching Africa how to take care of herself. I’d have put forward the idea that promoting relevant education mightn’t be a bad idea (as Rehema commented, ‘I’d like my daughters’, she has four, by four different men, ‘to understand how to avoid pregnancy’ and, she added, ‘I’d like them to know how to farm well’). I’d have tentatively brought up the subject of involving smallholder farmers in private enterprise (slammed by the critics as exploitation; how can it be when both parties benefit commercially?).

Helping Africa to help herself is sustainable. And ultimately rewarding. Throwing money at her benefits only a few and corrodes the dignity of her people. It hampers them. And anyway, -in the end – people are going to get sick of Africa’s sob story.

But what would I know.

I’m just a housewife.


4 Responses to “The G8 on Africa … what would I know”

  1. Gillian Says:

    Yes, I don’t know Africa, but I do have the sense that education provides long-term benefits for generations to come. Good education not only helps an individual life, it can help change the system. And if you don’t work on the system, you’re just going to be dealing with the symptoms / negative effects for generations to come.

    That’s why I support the School of St Jude — — which is currently raising funds for a weekday boarding school for its older kids. Perhaps you can encourage the folks you meet to support education in Tanzania by supporting this school?

    In contrast to G8, check out the vibe from the TED Global conference, held in Arusha at the same time as G8. It had a much more ‘can do’, Africans-get-active, DIY, vibe than G8. But, of course it would – there were lots of Africans at it. G8 leaders have to focus on what they ‘can’ do. And making promises is what they’re best at. So that’s what they do. Keeping them is harder.

    Check out this TED Global conference summary made by former Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

    Good luck with the school visits and bursary-seeking.

  2. R.Sherman Says:

    Interesting post which carries more weight from someone on the scene. On one hand, we westerners want to do SOMETHING, but we don’t want to waste our money, either.

    I’m afraid there’s no easy answer.


  3. Kathleen Says:

    Ah yes the major questions about Africa. I believe all of what you say is true, some organizations are starting to believe this also and responding, but not enough. I’m afraid that most of the time with charity given to Africa all you can find is a string of greed and corruption unfortunately starting with the United Nations.

  4. stwidgie Says:

    Thanks for making that point. I’ll keep it in mind the next time United Way / Combined Federal Campaign comes around in the fall.

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