The end of poverty?

I was looking at the literature distributed by Kisima and Worldvision concerning child sponsorship and it reminded me of my trip to Kenya, and some of the things I learnt whilst out there.

At the time, the world (well, the media anyway) was in a frenzy about Africa. The G8 were convening to discuss dropping the debts of a number of third-world countries, Bob Geldof was doing his thing with Live8 and the BBC were showing a series of programmes on Africa. It seemed like the problems Africans had to deal with every day might be solved. Well, if not everything, at least poverty.

Speaking with the average Kenyan though made me realise we need to do a whole lot different. (Well, maybe more as well, but certainly do something different to what was proposed). Yes, it’s all very well having the profile of Africa lifted, to have government debt cancelled and to receive large amounts of aid. Yes, these things are good, but if we don’t do something different, we’ll always be doing it, and poverty will always be with us – I say us, as it affects us, but it affects the Africans a bit more! Even in Kenya, which is one of the more prosperous nations on the continent, poverty was endemic.

To be blunt, most governments/administrations in Africa are corrupt. Yes, they can’t spend large amounts of money on public works as they’re saddled with huge debts, but even without the debts, would they spend it on public works? The Africans I spoke to had no idea what was happening in the developed world concerning them. When I informed them, they seemed mostly ambivalent, not really thinking it would affect them.

The Bible says “for the worker deserves his wages” Lk 10:7. The endemic poverty is largely because we in the developed world don’t trade on a level playing field. Many of the crops produced in the developing world aren’t sold in the developed world for what they’re worth, if they even make it to our local Tesco! EU trade tariffs and subsidies see to that. It’s even been known for crops produced in the developed world, under huge government subsidy and vastly overproduced, to be dumped in the developing world for almost nothing, effectively putting local producers out of business overnight.

Instead of dropping the debts of governments, would it not be better to pay a proper price for the goods we receive, produced by the people of Africa, that the money would end up in their pockets and not disappear in administration? This way the wealth gets to the people, to the employees of these farms and to their customers.

Instead of giving one off charitable donations, would it not be better to give continuously to a known cause which would “teach a man to fish”, teach a girl to become a physicist, teach a boy to become an agriculturalist, teach Africans many useful skills which they can use to improve their lot?

Will we search out fair-traded goods in the future or just sit in front of the TV with our “cheaply” produced food and say how terrible everything is?

Will we wait until the next disaster happens before we put our hands in our pockets, or will we search out long term projects to contribute to?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying what I’ve said will solve the problems of Africa overnight. Just a glimpse at Niger, Darfur, Somalia, Congo, Zimbabwe to name but a few help me to realise the problems are complex. I think the continued attitude of the developed world of aid, aid and more aid is not the answer though.

Does anything I’ve said make any sense?

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