The German magazine Spiegel recently interviewed and African economist on the state of African countries, and the aid the world pours into the continent. His reaction to these handouts might surprise you.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa…
Shikwati: … for God’s sake, please just stop.
SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.
Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.
SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?
Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.
SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.
Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people.
This is the difference between a hand out and a hand up. You can help people by embracing them as people, which means addressing at least their moral problems (which you often can’t do without addressing their spiritual problems), even while you’re helping them with money and goods. Or you can be “nonjudgmental,” believing “they’re culture and beliefs are just as good as mine,” and push them ever farther into decline; you can help them maintain their broken relationship with reality by throwing money at them.
But lest we miss the point…
This is why “welfare” in the US doesn’t work: we’re too trapped in our belief that individual dignity means never judging someone’s morals or actions. We’re too trapped in our belief that all roads should lead to both God and prosperity. We’re too trapped in our belief that actions should never have consequences, because “we all make mistakes.” We’re too trapped in our belief that the government must be “morally neutral,” which means giving folks a card to buy cheap wine with without asking why they’re buying the cheap wine in the first place.
We’re too trapped in feeling good about ourselves because we’re “doing something,” and “refusing to judge.”We don’t see that Charity, detached from judgement in love, is not mercy but the vilest form of degradation man has ever known.
Charity never works when giving is about the giver’s self esteem.
There a lesson here not only for “aid to Africa,” but welfare here at home, if we’re willing to learn it.