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How Much Is Britain Really Helping Africa?

London, UK - 'Globalisation has impoverished resource-rich developing African nations' was a recurring theme during an early Africa Day 2010 event to coincide with the UK election campaign. Alice Ukoko, founder of Women of Africa, Ruth Tanner, Campaign and Policy Officer of War on Want and Ahmed Shebani, Al Jamar Government and Media Centre Official Spokesperson, based in Tripoli, Libya were the main speakers at the April 26 gathering at the UPF headquarters in Lancaster Gate.

'All the UK political parties may guarantee at least 0.007 percent (of gross national income) in overseas development aid by 2011 but five times that amount is lost to developing countries in Africa through the tax dodging and capital flight of multi-national companies, including a number established in the City of London,' said Ruth Tanner.

Ahmed Shebani described Libyan charities that channeled funds into projects throughout Africa, the Libyan African Investment Portfolio, the Wa Attassimou Foundation promoted by HE Dr Ayesha Gaddafi, the daughter of Colonel Gadaffi, and the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation run by HE Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, which includes several leading UPF Ambassadors for Peace among its Trustees. These ventures are supporting both humanitarian projects and economic development. He mentioned that Libyans are also encouraged to emigrate to other African nations in order to establish businesses. Those with a good business plan receive a line of credit easily.

Alice Ukoko emphasised that African women could be a force for peace and development. She passionately stated that, 'Imperial, colonial powers have burdened Africa and prevented development.' The international aid should be stopped and Africa will be able to stand on its own two feet.

Aliu Bello commented, 'I worked in UNICEF for 25 years. I know what aid does and doesn’t do. Even from the aid given to some African countries, 80 percent is coming back here. It is not helping anybody in Africa. We could solve this if 70 - 80 percent of any aid is distributed through civil society. They are better organised and prepared to distribute resources where they are needed. We don’t need hand outs. Otherwise aid that doesn’t have this (stipulation) should be rejected. It should not be sent through the very governments that are ruining their economies.'

Ruth Tanner said, 'After 20 years of free market trade, promoted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, 50 million more Africans are now out of work.' She stated, ‘$260 billion is lost to worldwide corporate tax dodging. That amount of money would pay for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.’ She added that transfers across borders within multi-national corporations may be legal but lead to anomalies such as $4,000 pens and $1 pre-fabricated houses.

In Malawi between 1990 and 1995 real wages plunged by 73 percent after trade liberalisation. Similarly major job losses were incurred in a number of African nations such as Ghana, Kenya, and Morocco.

Ruth Tanner saw the solidarity of civil society groups as a network around the globe as a strong force for fairness and justice. She added that the trade, development, and aid agenda for both the EU and the UK Governments are integrated with the need for the resources Europe lacks and by the reality that those resources are in those insecure states.

She said, 'Western NGOs should make partners with foreign groups to counter these issues. I am a western woman living in London. I am a responsible for the actions of my Government. There are issues that we can campaign about such as tax avoidance and the trade agenda. We have a responsibility for these international organisations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. How change happens is through the campaigns of civil society groups in solidarity with international partners across the world. There is strength in those networks.‘

Alice Ukoko said that the West is always looking for an excuse to be involved in Africa. 'We have had some puppet governments put in place and then resources have been looted away. African people are becoming so desperate from poverty that security has become an issue.' For example there is no economic power to generate the base to provide a livelihood; therefore, kidnapping people in the Niger delta has become a good business. What we are seeing here is growing insecurity through the actions of trade. Idle hands are the devil's workshop. The nations of the West have created a monster, and the monster is about to devour us all.

She is working to create an African women’s convention and form an Africa Women’s Commission that represents the grassroots determination to take the liberation of Africa forwards. People shout, but no one is listening.

An Ambassador for Peace award was presented to Professor Dr Stephen Hyer. He said, 'I feel honoured and privileged to receive this award. I was part of British aid, or Overseas Development Aid, when I worked in African hospitals. We got our salary paid by the British Government. Our legacy is still there because I do go back from time to time. It is not all bad but we could do a lot better.'

Ambassador for Peace awards were also presented to Ruth Tanner and to David and Marie Fairbank for their philanthropic activities.

Comment:

Ilham S:

Thank you for organising such an event to question how aid is given, spent, distributed and how beneficial is it?

African countries have multifaceted issues that cross and disrupt daily life to ordinary citizens on a daily basis, like unemployment due to lack of opportunities, access to good education, and AIDS that have slowly dissolved the willpower of people to hang on to hope for something better. The reason or the way to find a lasting solution is not to look at Aid only but to address the underlying issue of good governance, how can the people of African have faith, trust and be controlled by a government that continually plunders/wastes and mismanages its countries resources and funds with corruption at record high levels, governments cannot be relied upon so what do we do about it?

  • take over the country? no
  • give more aid and set up more aid agencies to send vital aid to impoverished people? partly
  • plan and implement a comprehensive review of governance and improving the efficiency of governmental services? yes

If there is a will, there is a way. Countries in Africa must stop blaming ‘others’ or the ‘past’ or expecting the ‘west’ to give their problems for them.

I think Libya with the help of Saif Al Gaddafi is trying to do this but the environment is impeding progress. Once we have a system of improvement and good leadership and governance then we can talk about real change for the better, where lives can be saved by simply investing our resources on what matters most.

For more information about Africa Day, click here.

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