Sunday, 10 May 2009

The problem with charity

Arguably this latest blog takes laissez-faire capitalism to an extreme level not even particularly explored by the likes of Hayek or Rand. It concerns activities at a personal level which can affect the fine balance of the global economic system. A few years ago now, people from my school went on a World Challenge trip to Tanzania to help in a village which assumedly was suffering relatively worse conditions to here in the UK. I do not question their good deed per se but doubt their competency in relation to the wider political issues in Tanzania and Africa as a whole.

Compared to neighbouring Kenya, Tanzania is generally more economically successful. There is commercial development in provincial towns as well as new road and water projects. Furthermore, Tanzania can lay claim to a common national identity which is rare in many African countries. One only has to look at the debacle in Kenya last year for evidence. Even at elections the ruling party tend to dominate through its popularity and propaganda rather than guns and terror.

So why did this bunch of do-gooders go to Tanzania rather than say Kenya? Well it’s obvious really from the previous paragraph. In the words of the ‘Dogs Die in Hot Cars’ song they are “Godhopping for good times, when everything starts to go wrong”. In other words they are prepared to help out poor people in a politically stable country but not those who suffer from both political and economic strife.

The effect of this is potentially disastrous. Africa will become divided as a continent between those stable countries that receive aid and help from the developed world (Tanzania gets 40% of its government budget in aid) and those that are caught up by the ravages of war. I believe that when looking at issues of charity such as this it is important to look at things from a wider perspective and take into account the political situation.

Thus my argument states that the answer to Africa’s problem does not lie in the form of billions of dollars of aid but rather in the stability of a region; which must be achieved as a primary goal. It is no use sending more money to a country where the money will be spent profitably as opposed to where the money will be spent on arms because this only highlights the problem further.

What is the answer then? In order to create stability it is clear that corrupt governments need to be removed and proper democratic systems set up and established. This takes time and cannot be done by throwing money at the problem. It is possible for the Western world to do this directly by means of invasion and this was considered by Britain in relation to Zimbabwe. This could potentially work for countries that are in as dire a situation as Zimbabwe where the people are desperate but in most cases this would merely be seen as a return to colonial times and wouldn’t be appreciated either locally or globally.

I believe the answer lies in Africa itself. Through self-regulation and internal pressure the African community can really force their neighbours to be more open democratically. The possibility of economic embargoes imposed by such unions would also create much-needed pressure. If organisations such as the EAC were more closely knit and functioned as more than just a trading bloc then it would be possible for Tanzania to pressurise the Kenyan government into fairer elections. The effect would be mutually beneficial as the Kenyan people would be relieved of their political strife and would be able to begin developing as a proper economy whilst Tanzania would gain a reliable trading partner.