Thursday, October 06, 2005

Africans can help themselves

Sewing machine
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Here is a picture of an enterprising young man, sitting outside a material shop, with his sewing machine, making the material into a dress or a skirt or whatever.

The man who owned the hotel we stayed at last night was given money to catch a train from Harar to Awassa. He didn't go but bought some eggs and started trading, soon he was into chickens and then all sorts of products and ended up owning a chain of five very good hotels. It can be done.

So why do we see, three times yesterday, crowds of people waiting in a field? Hundreds of them? I thiught they might be open-air church services. But no, in this green and very fertile land, full of wheat, maize, sorghum, qat trees and the like, these people were waiting to be GIVEN grain produced by heavily subsidised farmers in the US.

What does this do to the local prices for grain, if foreign subsidised grain is DUMPED on the local marekt? I wonder.

There is not a town or village which one passes through without, somewhere on the outskirts, a sign, or a number of signs, advertising a go-good Western AID organisation. Menschen fur Menshen, Kind Hands, Christian Aid, SOS Sahel, People in Need and the like. Helping out with education, health service, looking after orphans and disabled people, fine, but giving away free grainin such a green and fertile land? I don't think so.

On the roads the fastest and newest vehicles are ALL white Toyaota Land Cruisers owned by the aid organisations. Go to any expensive restaurant and all tables are taken by aid workers and their colleagues.

All things being given to Africans.

At the same time, we see here in Ethiopia, hands outheld, Give me Money, I am hungry, Give Me Money, or just Money. Is it any wonder?

I am not against aid and one has to be very careful about drawing quick conclusions from casual observations. But so often one is left asking oneself why the people here show such a lack of initiative and seemingly such little self-reliance.

And, how does the government get away with it? Anyway, with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown (both of whom are very popular over here) doing their best to boost AID to Africa, admirable though their aims, one wonders if they are going the best way about it. Trade not Aid.

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