Ignorance in the LA Times…
Here is an ignorant LA Times article and my response to it. I swear, the level of ignorance evident in this piece should make it ILLEGAL….but instead its published.
LA Times: Independence? Try ‘aid-dependence’
Colonialism didn’t cause Africa’s problems, and aid alone won’t fix them.
Culled from LA Tmes (March 11)
EVER BEEN HAD? Last year, the United States Agency for International Development gave Ghana $22.5 million in food aid.
Last Monday, that same country began a 12-month celebration of its independence from British rule, which was granted 50 years ago, on March 5, 1957. The total budget for these festivities, which commenced with an all-night party in Accra, is said to be $20 million.
You might reasonably ask if this is a sensible way of spending $20 million at a time when the typical citizen of Ghana has a daily income of $1.33. You might also ask what exactly Ghana has to celebrate after 50 years of “freedom.”
Let us not pretend that Gold Coast, as the country was known before independence, was a flourishing economy. The average Briton was 39 times richer than the colony’s average inhabitant. But Gold Coast was seen as one of the most advanced of Britain’s African possessions, which was one reason it was the first to be granted independence.
Yet the economic consequences of independence gave the lie to the old leftist claim that Britain was exploiting its colonies. Between 1960 and today, the gap between Britain and Ghana has more than doubled, so that the average Briton is now 92 times richer than the average Ghanaian. Today, according to the World Bank, aid accounts for 16% of Ghana’s national income and covers fully 73% of government expenditures.
So what went wrong? The answer is more or less the same answer you would give for any sub-Saharan African country since 1957. Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana to independence, was in many ways typical of the first generation of post-colonial African leaders. The product of a Catholic mission school and an American university, (Nkrumah was wholly incapable of distinguishing the virtues from the vices of British rule.)
Though it was tight-fisted when it came to education and healthcare, the Colonial Office at least provided the foundations for economic and political stability: trade, balanced budgets, sound money, the rule of law and non-corrupt administration. Nkrumah lost little time in ditching all of these things. If you look at the photographs of the handover of power in 1957, the Duchess of Kent looks pained; the governor, Sir Charles Arden-Clarke, looks skeptical. Those facial expressions proved eminently justified.
As soon as he had been brought into government, Nkrumah increased government expenditures by a factor of 10 and expanded the senior civil service by a factor of five. It was a classic case of jobs for the boys, as members of Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party hit the political equivalent of the jackpot. “The government is in the hands of knaves,” lamented one outgoing British official. Too late. Ghana provided the first of many examples of African democracy in action: One man, one vote — once.
The government was also in the hands of dupes. A long-standing Communist Party member, Nkrumah was easily persuaded by the KGB that the CIA was plotting against him and readily acceded to Soviet offers of assistance. This took the form of a KGB-trained national security service with a huge network of paid informers and more than 1,000 Russian “advisors.” By the early 1960s, Ghanaian women were staging protests with placards reading “Bring Back the British.”
Instead, it was left to the Ghanaian army to overthrow Nkrumah in 1966 (while he was visiting Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi). Far from improving matters, this proved to be the first of umpteen coups, culminating in the bloody seizure of power by Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings in 1981. Although Rawlings formally restored democracy in 1992, he remained in power until 2001, and his party, the National Democratic Congress, continues to govern the country. Today, there are still people who fondly believe that all of Africa’s problems are a legacy of colonialism and the fault of the wicked British. Those people also cling to the notion that this legacy can be expunged only by the payment of reparations in the name of “aid.” Fifty years on, we can surely think more clearly.
In virtually every case (Botswana is the sole exception), former British colonies in sub-Saharan Africa have fared worse under independence than they did under British rule. In virtually every case, as New York University’s William Easterly has pointed out, the expenditure of billions in Western aid has failed to raise their rate of economic growth.
In his forthcoming book, “The Bottom Billion,” Oxford economist Paul Collier brilliantly anatomizes the true causes of Africa’s post-colonial failure. He identifies four traps into which a depressingly large number of sub-Saharan countries have fallen since the 1950s. Some are trapped by their dependence on natural resources, such as diamonds or oil; some by being landlocked; some by recurrent civil war. But the fourth trap is the one that applies to Ghana: the trap of bad governance.
To illustrate the folly of giving aid to chronically misruled countries, Collier cites a recent survey that tracked money released by Chad’s Ministry of Finance to fund rural health clinics. Just 1% reached its intended destination. The rest was raked off by one corrupt official after another.
So forgive me if I don’t join Ghanaians in partying all year. I really don’t see much to celebrate if independence is just a euphemism for aid-dependence.
This is piece is flagrant misinterpretation of facts and this types of writing happens when people who have no real understanding of Africa try and write about Africa. This crap just needs to stop because clearly people just simply do not know what they’re talking about. Sure Ghana perhaps should not spend so much money on their 50th anniversary celebration but then again perhaps the US should be willing to pay better prices for Ghanaian cocoa and perhaps they should be willing to pay Ghana the millions if not billions of dollar equivalent it lost when THOUSANDS of its people were ripped from her soil to go and work in the US during Slavery.
Nonsense like this article needs to end because it continues to distort the truth.
So in then name of truth and my sanity let me make a few points:
1. Contrary to what this article argues, colonial powers did NOT provide a sound foundation for economic and political stability for Africa…umm do we not remember how North and South Sudan were TWO SEPARATE ENTITIES until the Brits came up with the brilliant idea of joining them into ONE country and they’ve been at loggerheads ever since. They have been at WAR for over 50 years because of British colonial ‘brilliance.’ And oh yeah there’s the little matter of the problems in Nigeria’s political and economic system that stem from the manner in which Britain AGAIN screwed things up and created a situation where they preferentially trained Northern Nigerians to join and enter the military to the extent that most senior posts in the military are held by one part of the country which can then hold the country at ransom if need be…why do people think Nigerian has had so many coups and military governments?
And to say that the colonial powers were ‘tight fished ‘ when it came to education and healthcare must be the bleeding understatement of the century. For the ‘first three decades of colonialism hardly anything was done that could remotely be termed a service for the African people’.The Europeans established services to serve themselves with absolutely no regard for the welfare of the Africans whom they so heavily taxed, exploited and on whose land they were living. In terms of healthcare the discrepancy between the state of health between African and Caucasian populations spoke volumes. For example, the European population in Algeria recorded an infant mortality death of 39 per 1000 live births whereas the local Algerian population suffered 170 deaths per 1000 live births! What the hell is that and then the colonial powers made our traditional healthcare system ‘illegal and demonic’ and in Kenya they legislated the Witchcraft act that made it impossible for our health care system to flourish…I mean we’re talking the type of lunacy that banned drum-beating in parts of West Africa!
Then let’s not forget how European and North American powers flagrantly supported bloody dictatorship just for financial gain during the Cold War in particular. They used their economic greed and clout to undermine political freedom Africa and patted dictators such as Mobutu, who was openly slaughtering THOUSANDS, on the back for making them rich.
2. Economically again this writer fails to comprehend some really very basic truths to the extent that one wonders just which planet he/she is writing from. So let me clarfiy some issues otherwise we willa ll be grossly misled:
When loans and ‘development AID were initially given to African countries, they were given to political establishments that typically did not represent the interests of the people. Why? During the struggle for independence, African leaders were the leaders of the mass movements and they relied on the people for their survival. They, therefore, had to fight for something the most of their people believed in. They had to be ACCOUNTABLE to the people…the Mau Mau struggle in Kenya would not have survived without the support of the people.
This all changed once independence was gained because of the Cold War. Those African leaders who found themselves in power discovered that they had to choose which camp to side with- the Soviet East or Capitalist West. Once that decision had been made, the leaders discovered that they were NO LONGER accountable to their people, but rather to the ‘bosses’ of their respective camps. As a result Mengistu of Ethiopia could line up thousands of Ethiopians and kill them with NO incrimination because he had the support of the Soviets. And Mobutu could plunder Zaire’s riches, use the country treasury like his personal bank account and massacre thousands of Zairians with not ONE word of protest from the so-called ‘international community’ because he had the support of the Capitalist West.
So this supposed AID did no really AID most African and the Northern countries were very aware of this fact when they were being so ‘generous’ SO they should just shut up when it comes to governance in Africa because they played a critical role in creating of a culture of a lack of accountability of many Africa leaders to their people. It is only NOW that African people are really beginning to engage working towards making sure the political leadership is accountable to THEM!!! But AGAIN there are problems because ‘Aid’ and loans from the outsiders creates a situation where African governments still are NOT fully accountable to their people.
3. Economically again this writer is clearly in the dark…how can he/she ask ‘what happened’! Don’t we tire of hearing the example that ‘in the 60s South Korea and Ghana were at the same place economically…NOW look at Ghana its so poor and the underdeveloped (I hate that term)..’. What people, like this writer tend to forget or tend to have selective amnesia about is that during the Cold War the global North poured MILLIONS of dollars into countries like South Korea. In the context of the Cold War, USA had to finance its East Asian clients mostly with gratis grants, not loans – thus, they could enter the industrial stage without too big “backlog” of the foreign debt (debt accumulated afterwards)’. They did this to in order to ‘protect these countries from the villainous Communists’ who they were close to. They provided markets for these countries, bolstered their industries and now they have the f*%*ing audacity to sit their and patronisingly ‘ask Africans ‘what happened’?
4. And yet despite all this and CONTINUED particularly, economic exploitation of Africa’s natural resources and linked political interference and coercion, unfair trade agreements, unfair un-cancelled debt, creation of military inroads into Africa (case in point Somalia), the ‘war on terror’ which as affected many African tourism industries, but to mention a few problems…this writer has the nerve to ask ‘uuuuuhh,…what happened?’ Of course colonies fared worse alone than when under colonial power. Just in one example: the prices of raw materials such as tea, coffee, copper etc were MUCH higher during colonialism because the colonial powers were reaping SICK profits from them. Once we gained independence suddenly prices began to plummet because of ‘market forces’ and countries such as Zambia found that for a long time, the metal that had made the colonial powers so rich was actually becoming the bane of their existence as Africans because the colonial powers in all their stupidity at the time created situations where 1) African economies were dependent on mainly one raw material or crop, 2) had prevented Africans from industrialising to process that raw material/ crop and therefore add value to it and 3) made sure that Africans had NO SAY whatsoever in determining the prices of the raw materials on which their economies were based.
Let me stop there. All I can say is that if people are too ignorant to write balanced and reasoned papers on Africa they should just STOP…in the name of intellectual excellence and the preservation of truth just STOP!
DO NOT WRITE ABOUT AFRICA UNLESS YOU’RE GOING TO BOTHER TO ACTUALLY TRY AND UNDERSTAND THE CONTINENT.