Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Make Poverty History: End African Aid NOW!

It is morally unnaceptable and we must immediately put a stop to it.

African people and businesses have been supporting wealthy developed countries for far too long: Aid encourages the recipient countries to be unproductive and dependent. Additionally, it could be argued that African countries have urgent requirements themselves (in terms of healthcare, education, policing and virtually every other aspect of bureaucracy to enable the development of civil society) and therefore shouldn't be giving aid to wealthier countries.

I have received a leaflet through my door 3 times this week:

"Dear Householder: CLOTHING COLLECTION. We urgently need clothing that you and your family may never wear again.. (snip) Also of great help.. (extensive list of stuff they expect to be given for free)"

The organisation responsible describes itself as "..a collection company who provide people in the third world with clothes for their families they can afford.."

Presumably, this means they take the junk to Africa and sell it there. People who give to them are likely to assume that they are doing their bit to help poor Africans. However, this is not 'aid to Africa'. On the contrary, it is aid to people over here who make money out of it. And this aid is at the expense of African people, African businesses and African tax revenues.

Why on earth should we be exporting textiles to Africa at all, rather than the other way round? Many of them, unlike us, can grow cotton at viable prices. 'Gifts' like these have destroyed indigenous African textile industries.

This is an extreme example of the profound malaise that developed countries have in their attitude to Africa: "They can't even dress themselves, poor things". How embarassing and shameful it was last year when BBC Radio 5 led a long 'shirt amnesty' campaign for listeners to send in last year's football shirts for the poor Africans, weeping because they couldn't even afford Umbro, much less Nike.

The Ape is not an expert in economics*, and is maybe speaking out of turn. But the long term solution is neither aid nor trade, but Governments strong enough to act in the interests of their own people, for example, able to put prohibitive import tariffs on dumped goods. The Ape should be wearing African clothes with African cotton & African brands, and if the false-beggars come asking again for my cast-offs they can look for them in the recycle bin, head first.


*Or anything else. On the other hand, maybe Garth Fraser of the University of Toronto is. (Thanks Google!). He certainly used a lot of equations in his recent essay on the topic ("Used Clothing Donations..". He concludes:

"Initially, the collective wisdom held that sending free food to developing countries could do nothing but help these countries, by increasing their incomes. The discovery that food aid could harm food producers in poor countries was as much a discovery as it was important.

Furthermore, just as food aid clearly benefits the consumers of food, used-clothing imports clearly benefit the consumers of used clothing, by making available lower cost apparel. Examining the impact of used-clothing imports on textile and apparel production has been the purpose of this paper. This paper has established, through an instrumental variables approach, that used-clothing imports had a significant negative impact on the textile and apparel production sectors in sub-Saharan African countries."

"Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, riding through the glen,.. Robs from the poor,
gives to the rich, Dennis Moore."

Nice one for pointing out that only strong states can protect people from unstable international commodity markets and depredations of all kinds, and that representing Africans through photos of children - needy, vulnerable, easy to impress - is intolerable (see, e.g., The Independent today).

Somewhere I've got a copy of a planning document released under the FRUS series in which Edward Murrow, as head of some propaganda unit at the State Department under the Kennedey Administration, argues in favour of a food aid programme to the USSR on the grounds that it will prepare them psychologically for dependence on the US. Almost certainly a marginal concern, but yet another revolting motivation.
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