THE WORLD’S FORGOTTEN STEPCHILD
This paper presents a detailed examination of Africa and its issues with a focus on why the world seems to ignore many of its needs for assistance. The writer explores financial and political issues that have an impact on the nation and provides insight as to why the world seems to have Africa on “ignore.” There were nine sources used to complete this paper.
As the world continues to globalize Africa’s needs become more evident than ever before. Religion-based television shows pipe images of children who are starving into living rooms weekly asking for donations. The news media brings home stories of political unrest and issues that brew just beneath the surface. At first glance it appears that Africa is getting the attention it needs from the rest of the world, however, if one takes off the media face and looks more deeply below the surface, Africa is being ignored by the world for the most part. Whether it is for financial aid, political mentoring, or educational needs, the people of Africa are struggling against seemingly insurmountable odds to overcome. If the nations of the world come together they can provide a team effort that will help Africa lift from its downward spiral, however, because Africa currently has little to offer the world in the way of politics, trade, agriculture or finance the world ignores the nation.
During the Cold War the world had an interest in Africa for political reasons. Some experts believe that Africa acted as a giant chessboard for other nations to play out their strategies and match wits with each other (Page, 2001).
Now that the Cold War is over, Secretary of State Colin Powell has written candidly about the “emotional pull” he feels about Africa. Yet, despite his personal fondness for the region, he faces a tough task persuading other Americans of all descents that the United States’ security is linked closely to Africa’s future (Page, 2001).”
When the Cold War ended so did any interest in Africa. Many experts believe that this is a political and global mistake. The world is becoming more global with each passing month which means that people and items are traveling in record numbers. The disease and other issues that are being faced in Africa can easily begin spilling into neighboring continents and countries and grow from there.
This would not only have an impact on the health and welfare of those nations that it touched, but it could also have a significant negative impact on the economy of those areas.
Africa cannot be bordered off and quarantined not to touch the rest of the world; therefore it is in the world’s best interest to help it develop itself into a viable neighbor and body of humans.
There are many elements that are creating the world’s ignoring of Africa. At times it has to do with one nation using its influence on other nations as to how much aid is provided. One case in point is the aid that is being sent to Africa to help combat the AIDS epidemic that the continent is facing (LOBE, 2005).
Malaysia has been cited as discouraging its ally nations and neighbors from sending to much money to the cause of AIDS in Africa.
During the Cold War Africa was on the bottom of the list of priorities and since the Cold War the continent has fallen even further behind the war on terrorism and oil reserve issues (LOBE, 2005).
One recent report however commends the effort that has recently begun in helping the plight of the people of Africa (LOBE, 2005).
The report commends the administration for launching two major Africa-related aid programs — the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) and the five-year, $15 billion President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) — as well as Bush’s commitment earlier this year to double U.S. aid to Africa by 2010 and his offer to eliminate all tariff and subsidy barriers in agricultural trade if the European Union (EU) agrees to do the same (LOBE, 2005). ”
The United States has seemed to increase its efforts when it comes to aiding Africa. Over the past 10 years the aid from the U.S. has increased more than five times over according to government reporting procedures (LOBE, 2005).
While this is a positive step initially there has been disappointment as well. Congress refused to take Bush’s suggestion to fund more of the MCA and the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa has fallen short of its expectations when it comes to receiving aid from the United States.
This is most likely founded in political vying which in the end leaves Africa without the aid and assistance that it so desperately needs.
Politics are a major contributor to the world ignoring Africa. Congress can play a card against Africa to go against a party or President and not receive to much of a back lash from the public for that decision. If Congress were to wield its power to defy the president or a party in the area of terrorism, oil or other products and issues directly impacting the people of America the outcry would be heard around the globe, however using its power to slap at the president or a political party where Africa is concerned creates much less notice.
The political power surrounding the ignoring of Africa should not be minimized or discounted as the political machine’s stronghold on the fate of Africa based on the aid that is being sent there can help the continent rebuild or destroy it depending on the decisions that are made in the next few decades.
In addition to the political game playing that occurs using African as a base for those issues the trade business has even a further impact on the reason the world ignores Africa.
Currently with the problems that Africa has it does not carry a lot of clout points with the rest of the world. Its difficulty producing agricultural products creates a one way stream of aid with very little being given back in return (Until, 2006).
If the world nations were to get together and decide to help Africa build itself into a viably powerful continent it would be a long time before the world would see the benefits of that effort.
While there are many millions of acres and square miles in Africa that could be turned into farmland, the cost, time and manpower to make this happen are currently not something the rest of the world seems interested in getting done.
Because the continent’s issues have become so large, widespread and devastating it will take a substantial amount of time and money to set it right. To this end even if all of the money and manpower is donated to do so the initial years of recovery will be self serving for the people of Africa as it rights the millions of starving people and industrial improvements.
The world is basically a selfish place. While it sometimes appears that military or financial aid is given to other nations to help them improve themselves it is really a move to help receive something in return.
If the U.S. For example, provides military help to a nation that is trying to become a democracy it doesn’t do it for the purpose of allowing that nation to grow on its own. It is because the U.S. can see the future oil or ally benefits that it will derive from that nation becoming a democracy.
Most of the nations that give aid to anyone for any reason do so because of the future benefits that it will reap from its actions.
Africa is so deeply in trouble in so many areas that the aid it will require to dig out will take many years and many dollars with no initial return on that investment for years, perhaps for several generations. The world nations are too short sited to contribute a lot of time or effort for something that will not show returns quickly. This is evidenced in the slow effort to help the environment instead of immediately gratifying the nations with resource use currently.
Far from solving Africa’s problems, cutting international aid will only compound the grinding levels of poverty its people experience (Until, 2006).
Take education: the reality in many of the countries in which we work is stark. More than 100 million children – that’s one out of every three children – is denied the basic human right to an education. Three-quarters of these live in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia (Until, 2006). The cycle of poverty will never be broken without education, but there is no education without teachers. Unless rich countries post the checks they wrote at Gleneagles and deliver long-term education aid commitments, poor countries will continue to hemorrhage trained teachers, an issue that experts rightly referred to as a major concern (Until, 2006).”
The experts demands for fixing the problem are well founded.
World Trade issues are an important issue to the plight of Africa as well. Providing a more level playing field for Africa to get into the game will set the wheels in motion for improvement and allow Africa to begin reaping some of the benefits of the world trade agreements. That money can be funneled back into the development of the continent thereby reducing the need for outside funding.
Debt cancellation and a significant rise in official development aid, though helpful, cannot simply put right Africa’s deep-seated problems. The commission report emphasizes that ultimate prosperity depends on robust private investment-led growth. Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, chairman of Anglo-American, said at the G8 Business Summit in London: “There will only be sustainable development in Africa if the increase in government aid flows is complemented by a resurgence of enterprise (Small, 2005).” Echoing similar views, Arun Sarin, chief executive of Vodafone Group, remarked: “The ultimate aim of policymakers must be to create the conditions for private enterprise to make poverty history in Africa,” and “A thriving business sector, led by capable and highly motivated African entrepreneurs, will lie at the heart of spurring economic growth and reducing poverty (Small, 2005).”
This is another aspect of Africa that the world seems to be ignoring and part of it has to do with the fact that it will involve the voluntary efforts of private industries worldwide. This again is not going to help line the pockets of those who will put out the effort therefore there is very little incentive for making the effort to help.
Unlike other emerging-market regions, Africa is distinctly heterogeneous in terms of private sector development. SMEs remain scarce — the 2005 African Economic Outlook report, published by the OECD Development Centre and the African Development Bank (AfDB), described them as “the missing middle.” With few exceptions, the private sector in Africa is dominated by micro-scale, informal firms where millions of people earn their livelihoods as small farmers, street vendors and in a range of other occupations. Even in South Africa, the continent’s most sophisticated economy, micro and very small enterprises accounted for more than one-half of total employment and one-fifth of economic output in 2003. In countries like Angola, Congo (DR) and Rwanda, the tiny private sector comprises almost entirely informal companies and formal finance is non-existent. Among oil-producing countries, such as Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea or Gabon, a lack of government support and the predominance of the oil industry have hindered the emergence of a private non-oil sector. Thus, enterprises tend to concentrate in the tertiary sector, eg services/commerce such as bakeries and pharmacies in Gabon.
In the Congo, around four-fifths of enterprises employ less than five people and for 2,100 enterprises registered in the formal sector, there are 10,000 informal ones, according to the AfDB/OECD report (Small, 2005). ”
The problems with improving the small business industry in Africa are cost prohibitive which is another reason the world ignores the problems of the continent.
To create an environment that is conducive to small business growth in Africa the deficient public utility system will have to be improved. There is a power system there that is unpredictable at best and erratic most of the time. The continent has an unpredictable business environment because of the insecure rights to property and the contract enforcement difficulties as the laws are not yet clearly defined or enforceable. In addition there is corruption throughout the continent that prevents the ability to develop a small business sector that is professional, successful and accepted in the world.
Even if all of these things could be rectified there is a banking issue in which the financial institutions are not up to a standard by which small business ventures could be effectively conducted.
All of these obstacles have been examined and discussed by world nations and have contributed to why the world largely ignores Africa and its needs.
If Africa is ever going to recover from its downward spiral and become a continent of prosperity that can contribute positively to the rest of the world the time has come to unite and assist.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has described Africa as a “scar on the conscience of the world (Abrahamsen, 2005).”
Blair recently began reminding the world that the nations of this globe are in actuality a large community and as a community the members have a moral bound duty to help one of the areas that need help.
The world has legitimate concerns about donating to much money or time to the cause of Africa. Leaders worldwide are wary that if the community of the globe begins to dig into its pocket and send financial and human resources to Africa then Africa will begin to become too dependent on others for its success. This could lead to as situation where many nations could get locked in because once it is started to withdraw funds and aid would not only be devastating but would also cause the remaining funding nations to frown on the one that pulled away (Anderson, 2005).
It is important to strike a balance between giving aid and carrying the load completely.
The old saying about giving a man a fish and feeding him for a day or teaching him to fish and feeding him for life holds very true when it comes to assisting Africa in its plight.
Africa is in need but it is not without the ability to pay it back someday. While the immediate need will probably take generations to repair as the business sector and food sector and political arena begin to build a foundation the world will not see an immediate return. Later, even if it takes several generations to begin, the continent of Africa will be able to offer a tremendous value to the world community. It has so much land that can be turned into farmland given the right opportunity that it will be able to contribute to world hunger. There are enough human resources in Africa to provide serious business contributions to the world. If the world nations will take the time, the compassion and the resources to help Africa build and develop the world will be repaid many times over through the contributions of its future contributions.
Abrahamsen, Rita (2005) Blair’s Africa: the politics of securitization and fear.
Alternatives: Global, Local, Political
Anderson, Bruce (2005) Political grandstanding and yet more wasted aid will not lift Africa out of poverty.(Features) The Independent (London, England)
Moss, Todd (2004)A Marshall Plan is not what Africa needs The politics of aid
International Herald Tribune
____(2006) Until there’s fair trade, Africa needs aid.(News)
____(2005) Small business sector holds key to prosperity: debt cancellation and increased aid will go some way towards tackling poverty, but what Africa really needs, writes Moin Siddiqi, is an action plan to support the development of the small- and medium-sized business (SME) sector.(Economy). African Review of Business and Technology
Page, Clarence (2001) AFRICA IS TOO BIG TO IGNORE.(Editorial)
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle, WA); 6/1/2001
Lobe, Jim (2005) POLITICS-U.S.: IGNORE AFRICA AT YOUR PERIL, THINK TANK WARNS BUSH Inter-Press Service English News Wire
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