Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Sustainable Development vs Hand-outs

There are lot of problems facing the African continent, from armed conflicts to food shortages to lack of adequate health facilities but there share a common long-term solution - sustainable development.

It is the old story of either giving a man fish or teaching a man to fish but in the case of the African context we know how to fish! It is a mistaken colonial hang-over to assume to that Africa, (which consists of over 50 countries thousands of unique tribes, languages and cultures) is a "dark" place that needs redemption by external powers. Take for example agriculture. In Nigeria an intensive farming structure was introduced to improve crop yields which failed and led to erosion and other damages to the environment. Mixed agriculture, e.g. planting legumes (such as beans) with corns, was an old tradition which was reverted to after the obvious failure of intensive farming.

Why aren't these native solutions being expressed to solve Africa's contemporary problems? One answer is false incentives. Why get a job when you can stay on welfare? Why invest in education and infrastructure which will not yield immediate returns when one can bankrupt your country and receive another bailout? Instead of being an interim means of support foreign aid has become economic cocaine for the ruling elite - numbing their sense of duty and responsibility to their people.

Let us break the habit by focusing our attentions on sustainable development and therefore, long-term solutions. It might not be the quick fix to a guilt trip but it will get us where we all want to go.

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