Sunday, 10 March 2013

UK aid and and modern imperialism in Africa

[Original video here]

Transcript (with selected links) and slides with references...

(Note that this video originated as an article for the Huffington Post called 'UK Aid, Imperialism and Child Mortality' [here].)

·         Hi
·         In this video, I will be looking at aspects of UK aid to Africa that seem carefully designed to help control and exploit the region, whilst acting as a subsidy from UK taxpayers to corporations, with the impacts upon the poor being largely irrelevant. That is, I will be looking at evidence that aid is being used as a tool of modern imperialism.
·         So let’s start.
·         Firstly, UK aid to Africa is used to promote discredited pro-foreign investor, anti-poor, anti-growth programs designed by the World Bank and IMF. This is done in two ways. Firstly, much UK aid still goes directly through the World Bank and IMF. Secondly, direct government-to- government aid remains conditional upon Bank-IMF programs being followed. Under the programs the world’s poorest countries are barred from using the same strategies that today’s rich countries used to develop including trade and capital controls.
·         This aid conditionality has previously been condemned by UK poverty activists.  For example, in 2005 Make Poverty History wrote to Tony Blair that the conditions attached to aid are undemocratic and ‘often work to entrench rather than overcome poverty.’ In 2006, Christian Aid stated that by providing aid through the World Bank the UK government was ‘paying for poverty’. Such criticism forced the government to claim that it would change direction. However, several analysts including the UK Aid Network have pointed out that little real change has materialised.
·         Moving on, the UK government is also using aid to promote increased corporate control of African food systems with a range of harmful impacts upon the poor. For example, the Department for International Development’s Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund is aimed at promoting export commodity production by African smallholders for sale to UK supermarkets, instead of food production for local needs. In this way, countries such as Kenya export large amounts of food crops whilst many in the country starve.
·         The Department for International Development also funds the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund, which makes grants of between US$250,000 and US$1.5 million for investments in Africa, primarily to large scale agribusiness companies. The support for their land deals comes at a time when Oxfam reports that large firms are increasingly taking over productive land and water at the expense of African peasants.
·         It seems the UK government is also attempting to use aid to control poverty groups in Africa. For example, observers in Rwanda report that Western aid provided to local NGOs, often first going through Western charities, works to divert them from political advocacy and promoting social reform. Instead, anti-poverty groups are funded to focus only on technical project work - such as digging wells - while ignoring underlying socio-economic problems. The thinking of the UK government seems clear: national economic policies in poor countries are supposed to be designed by donor governments in collaboration with compliant local elites. The poor should stay out of the way and concentrate on coping strategies.
·         Before ending this video, I would like to mention Teresa Hayter’s 1971 book, ‘Aid as Imperialism’. In the book she expressed doubt that major donor governments could be convinced to fundamentally reform aid and stop using it as a tool of control. She believed that concerned citizens in donor countries had a choice between: (1) accepting aid in its current form, (2) opposing aid altogether, or (3) promoting socialism within donor countries so that aid could be provided in a genuine spirit of solidarity. 
·         Viewers are invited to discuss her assessment and their general views on aid, in the comments below.
·         Thanks for listening
·         See you soon

 References can be seen more clearly by clicking on the slides, whereby the slides will expand...

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