So it’s been a while since I last updated my blog. Overall things have pretty much gone back to normal. I spend my days going to hang out with the women of Si Nafa and then the guys at my blacksmith/president of the mobile bank. After that I usually grab a sandwich and then either hang out in town or go back home. I’ve also been busy trying to get this restaurant proposal together. We’ll see how that goes…..
I’ve had a lot of time to catch up on reading books. I finally got through Brothers Karamazov and had a chance to read this book I’ve been dying to read, The Aid Trap by R. Glenn Hubbard (thanks Hee Young!) It really seems like he understands the issues. He opposes aid but provides a realistic solution drawing on what has proven successful in the past, The Marshall Plan. After World War II the US was charged with helping reconstruct Europe. America helped by sending over businessmen who helped give loans to businesses in Europe, which helped drag the remains of Europe out of poverty in a relatively short period of time. He offers a similar solution to Africa. Hubbard argues that instead of treating economic development in Africa like charity we need to foster a healthy business environment and doing so is the only way to truly develop Africa and bring people out of poverty.
One of the reasons I feel that aid isn’t working here in Mali is because it just fits into all the worst tendencies for Malians. Typically a successful Malian male will have several wives, tons of children, and lots of relatives who are always hitting them up for money. My language tutor tells me that he can’t go to a village without bringing a bunch of money because his poor relatives not only want the money but they expect it. This is the same line of reasoning for having many children too. I had this conversation today with my homologue’s friend’s wife Fatimata where I explained that in my family it’s just me and my brother. To her it seemed so bizarre because your average Malian will have many children so that when the children grow up they will take care of you as you get old. I guess in America children more or less suck the money out of you and no one really expects to be supported by their children when they get older. But here children are more like investments. So when NGOs come in the village treats them like that rich uncle. They come in on their shiny cars, ask them what they want, buy it for them, then they go back to America (or even worse, France). Let’s say an NGO came in and built a village a school. For the NGO worker he can say that he visited a poor village in Africa, built a school, and it changed his life. But, for the village, how can we be certain that school will be used? What happens when the roof collapses or a wall caves in? Since it didn’t cost the village any money they really don’t have a personal stake in the school and oftentimes they’ll just end up not using the building if something happens. Even worse they’ll just wait for the next NGO to come by and ask them what they want. Then they’ll tell them the roof collapsed on the school and that it needs to be fixed. The rich uncle steps in once again (this time the rich uncle being the NGO) and fixes the roof for them. Instead of trying to improve their lives on their own these villages end up in this vicious cycle of dependency, never being able to truly develop and bring themselves out of poverty. Even the way that people approach training is backwardsLet’s be honest, if we Americans were in the same situation would we act any differently? Such are the consequences of the so-called Aid Trap.
So don’t believe the hype. Don’t listen to Bono and all his bullshit. Don’t listen to any of those celebrities. Most of them are just a bunch of FAGs (RE: Team America World Police). Bono is truly hypocritical when he pleads governments to forgive Africa’s debts while he relocates U2‘s headquarters to evade taxes in Ireland. As Hubbard argues the only way to truly fight poverty is by promoting business which in turns creates a middle class which is the only effective check on government. We need to stop “helping” Africans by just giving them money and start helping Africans “help” themselves. Six months in and already questioning whether or not I’ll make it. In sh’Allah…..