The Batwa people were traditionally hunter-gatherers. In Eastern Congo, they lived off what the forest provided, until prolonged warfare and the creation of national parks ended their way of life. Neglected by the government, shunned by other ethnic groups, the Batwa live on the margins of Congolese society. They have no knowledge of agriculture or animal husbandry. They have never participated in a cash economy. They live in temporary villages in constant fear of being driven out by real estate developers or the government. They build their houses out of sticks and leaves and die of things like too much rain. There are about 3,000 living in the area around Goma. They want dignity, they want a way to live as others live, but how? No one can simply give that to them.
In August, I met an American girl in Kigali with a friend named Morgan, a student at the Université de Goma. On a whim, I went to eastern Congo, ostensibly to climb a volcano and see some gorillas, all because Morgan knew a guy who knew a guy who could get me a good rate. Morgan also happened to be one of the most extraordinary individuals I’ve ever met–a law student, an eldest son, the founder of his own NGO, and a good guy to have around the next time Mt. Nyiragongo erupts–and so on a second whim, I made a promise I intend to keep to Morgan and 3,000+ people. Needless to say, I never did get to see the gorillas.
In a series of posts, learn about the Batwa, the support Morgan’s NGO needs to help them, and how I hope to mobilize that support while avoiding all those pitfalls of aid I love to critique, but to which I can offer no easy solutions.
Rwanda has a plan called Vision 2020 which aims to transform Rwanda into a middle-income country by 2020. The Kenyan government is holding public forums on Vision 2030, a proposed plan announced last fall to transform Kenya into a middle-income country by 2030.
The beginnings of a new fad? Or do many African countries have similar "Asian tiger," middle-income ambitions?
I’ll stand up and shout when I think people are dead wrong or heading in a dangerous direction, but I’m generally the girl who sits back, listens and when she speaks tries to do so with conviction but hopes she won’t rock the boat too much. The flurry of blog posts, digg, newsvine and reddit comments, del.cio.us bookmarks, and personal emails (both laudatory and critical) since the article on aid/Bono/TED was (finally) published a few days ago has taken me by complete surprise.
I am really glad that so many people are debating these issues. And if I’ve been able to spark interest and get people talking about TED, aid, entrepreneurship, and the media’s portrayal of Africa in a meaningful way, even if it meant being uncharacteristically polemic, then I am happy for it.
But a few clarifications:
1) Yes I’ve been to Africa and no I don’t think all African children carry AK-47s – A few lazy readers have suggested I go to Africa and see for myself how wrong I am to take a few exceptional examples of African dysfunction to generalize for the entire continent.
Putting aside the fact that I had to be in Africa in order to have attended a conference in Arusha, I’ve been to seven African countries and in none of them have I seen an AK-47-toting child, people dying of famine or war, or any of the other completely ludicrous stereotypes that form the opening paragraph of the article.
This article originally appeared on this blog and has since been published at American.com. It differs slightly from the original version.
It’s time to let Africa imagine its own future.
Arusha, Tanzania–Africa is a continent of despair and desperation. Here, eight year-olds toting AK-47s massacre whole villages and eccentric dictators feast on the organs of the opposition, believing it’ll boost their mojo. Tsetse flies nibble on the eyelids of starving children who sport distended bellies like it’s their birthright, not to mention the fact that by the time you finish reading this article, another six Africans will die from malaria, five from AIDS, and seventeen from poverty and hunger. Also, the wildlife is beautiful and the people like to dance and sing.
That’s Africa, and it’s in desperate need of our help. Luckily, a few enlightened megastars from America and Europe have come to save it.
Continue reading "Africans to Bono: ‘For God’s sake please stop!’"
Image credit: Photo by Flickr user advencap
Jeffrey Sachs criticizes the "extreme free-market ideology of structural adjustment" promoted by the IMF and the World Bank while praising Chinese investment in Africa. Here’s why he is both right and incredibly wrong.
Jeffrey Sachs’s editorial at the Guardian’s Comment is Free, "China’s lessons for the World Bank," touches on recurrent themes of the China-Africa story: the hypocrisy of Western criticism and China as a viable alternative model.
Sachs attended the African Development Bank meeting in Shanghai a few weeks ago, and from his participation in high level meetings observe,s "The advice that the African leaders received from their Chinese
counterparts was sound, and much more practical than what they
typically get from the World Bank."
Will China Teach Africa How to Fish?
A few weeks ago, Blaise Aplogan wrote (En, Fr) about Li Zhaoxing’s visit to Benin. He saves what I consider his most fascinating observation for last:
""Smiles, frank handshakes, and community of Third-World experience, are quite
good. But what worries me is what a friend of mine working in the Foreign
Ministry told me. According to this well informed civil servant, agreements with
the Chinese are interesting, but they are often accompanied by a long period of
transfer of technology, not to mention ownership right. Some delays may be as
long as a hundred years! A hundred years, may not be so long for China, an old
nation having behind her a past of several millenniums. But for us Africans who
have been languishing in the shadow of poverty an alienation, finding it hard to
take hold of our destiny and get rid of the fate, we look forward to making our own the Chinese proverb which
says: " it is better to learn to fish rather than be given a fish " and
I shall add gladly: " and not to be reduced to salivate while it is cooking in
our own kitchen, in the Chinese sauce …"
I agree that technology and skills transfer are key, but that
doesn’t happen by accident or simply through passive osmosis. My guess
is that real skills transfer isn’t going to come unless a) African
governments *really* hammer this point home as a condition for future
business deals (I’m a bit skeptical on this point for the simple fact
that human beings have a difficult time acting rationally in the face
of mountains of cash) or b) when Africans actually start owning a
significant share of Chinese-funded projects.
It looks like Namibia is embarking on a fast-track land reform program that will take away a vast quantity of land from its white owners (4.8 million hectacres) and redistribute it to a relatively small share of the population (240,o00 farmers) on a "willing seller, willing buyer basis."
Sound familiar? This was exactly the kind of language used to describe the land reform program in Zimbabwe when it was first conceived.