Africa for Norway

Some light humour, because it is a nice and sunny Wednesday morning here in Nairobi and winter is about to get real for millions of hapless Norwegians.

More on this here.

H/T VKW

The Revolt of the Pitied

Development assistance and general engagement between the West and the developing world is often laden with a lot of both intentional and non-intentional objectification of those being “assisted” (and we academics are no exception). This is something that I have since come to accept as inevitable in cross-cultural interactions.

Others are less tolerant, and rightly so. Here is Magatte Wade writing over at The Guardian:

“Her question assumed that those of us in developing nations are to be pitied. I know as a Senegalese that her attitude is precisely what disgusts us about many who work at NGOs.

For many of those who “care” about Africans, we are objects through which they express their own “caring”.

I replied to the young woman, “If you see us as human beings, there is nothing to deal with. We like to eat good food, we love to talk and laugh with our family and friends. We wonder about the world, and why so often bad is rewarded rather than good.”

H/T: NYU Development Research Institute

Mediocre leadership is the biggest crime against humanity

The saying goes that when the tide runs out you get to know who has been skinny dipping. In the same vein, it is when disaster strikes that you get to know who has mediocre leadership.

The ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa, the worst in 60 years, has exposed eastern African leaders for who they are. The Ethiopian and Eritrean governments for a while even refused to acknowledge the humanitarian catastrophe in their hands. The Kenyan government spokesman would not admit that any Kenyan has died from the famine. Kenya, the region’s biggest economy, is a lesson in the dangers of mediocre leadership: Meteorological warnings from two years ago were ignored; Money for food aid ended up in private bank accounts; and The government lacks any coherent agricultural and food security policies.

And because of it all, this is happening [please pardon the famine porn, but we need to see how REALLY bad things are]. 3.5 million Kenyans face starvation. 11 million in the wider region are affected.

In the last two days I have followed news stories on the situation in northern Kenya. I can only imagine how things are in the epicenter of the famine in Somalia and the Ogaden region of Ethiopia.

A lot of blame has been flying around. According to Jeff Sachs:

“The warning is also clear. The Horn of Africa is the world’s most vulnerable region, beset by extreme poverty, hunger and global climate change, notably a drying and warming of the climate during the past quarter century.”

adding that

“The west has contributed to the region’s crisis through global climate change that victimises the lives and livelihoods of the people of the region.”

In my view, however, the blame squarely lies with the region’s leadership. It is the leaders who have consistently refused to plan ahead, opting instead for palliative measures like food relief with lots of opportunity for graft. Blaming western colonialism, neocolonialism, climate change, etc are nothing but distractions. This problem and many other African problems are for the most part just that, African problems.

That millions of shillings in aid money was stolen, thus endangering millions of lives in northern Kenya, is a moral travesty. To add insult to injury, no one has yet been arrested or charged with the crime. It is Kenyan officials who have sat by and in some instances (in the past and now) even contributed to the endangerment of the lives of 3.5 million citizens of Kenya.

The usual perpetrators of crimes against humanity – warlords and their militia – kill with guns. But corrupt and mediocre civilian leadership continues to decimate millions more through both inaction and well calculated mis-allocation of resources.

Because of the famine 800,000 children in the wider region could die from malnutrition.

Food aid is definitely not a long term solution. But here is how you can chip in to help those affected by the famine.

fast one meal for the emaciated children of darfur

If you are feeling like you haven’t done anything good lately or are running low on self-worth derived from history-changing feel-good acts then load up on brownie points with the gods by doing this….

all you need to do is fast one meal

This is not just a critique of such approaches in the African scene but applies to our approach to the needy in general. Do we need to feast on images of the destitute among us at their worst for us to respond to their needs? How does all the poorism and poverty porn reflect on our consciences as humans who OUGHT to respect other people for who they are, regardless of whether they are needy or not; Or whether they are in America or Elsewhere?

More on this here

HT Hiyabel

the good news from africa, and their implications

The photo in the flyer says it all:

John Prendergast with two anonymous African children

John Prendergast is Jesus the bearer of good news and presumably a savior, through his tireless advocacy work, of the many African victims of fate, their governments and endless conflicts. It must feel good being the anonymous kids being used to massage a humanitarian worker’s ego in flyers like this one.

Mr. Prendergast, co-founder of the enough project, gave a talk this afternoon (I only attended the first part of the talk because of TA duty) at Stanford on the positive developments on the Continent and the state of the conflicts in central Africa. For more of what he does see Texas in Africa.

pourism is not restricted to the developing world

Pourism, aka poverty porn, is not restricted to the third world. In the West it is cheaper than having to buy a plane ticket, among other expenses, to go visit people villages in Rwanda or Kenya. You can get it all online.