It's been hard to escape coverage of the Live 8 concerts since that's all MTV showed over the weekend and the news channels have been covering it in the mornings while I work out. Events like Live 8 always make me end up feeling ambivalent. One the one hand it is great to see people trying to help with the problems people are facing in Africa and on the other it perpetuates the notion that Africa is the world's charity case. After some consideration, I definitely think my feelings about the concerts are mostly positive. 

I've seen some blog posts complain that not enough African artists were included in the concerts and others criticising the concerts by asking what good will a rock concert end up influencing the members of the G8.

My thoughts are similar to those David Weinberger expressed in his post Live 8: Cause or fashion statement? where he wrote

For me it comes down to this: I can't imagine that people going to a big rock concert will change the mind of any G8 leader, but if Live 8 makes debt relief trendy, I'm all for it. After all, trendiness seemed to have an effect on ending Apartheid in the 80s.

In a similar vein I echo the sentiment's from the post in Brian's Black Star Journal entitled Development issues and celebrities where he wrote  

I remember back when Princess Diana got involved in the landmine question. I wondered how those ordinary activists felt. They worked on the issue for years to little effect but then this fancy royal flies in and suddenly it's the cause célèbre du jour.

But on the other hand, at the end of the day, the Ottawa treaty banning landmines was signed. Most countries (not including the US) do not use landmines anymore. Is it really important who gets credit? As an activist, is it about you or the cause? Do you think any anti-landmine activist would say, "I think we should revoke the Ottawa treaty because it wouldn't have passed without star power"? I hope not. If so, they are not real activists.

Despite these sentiments I agree with the economists and aid groups cited in variousnews storiesabout Live 8 that at the end of the day what African nations need more than aid and debt cancellation is better governance and to participate more fully in international trade. Better governance simply cannot be overemphasized. In certain nations African governments have really, really screwed things up. For many nations, without regime change, giving more aid is just sending in good money after bad.

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers.


Wednesday, July 6, 2005 2:31:03 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Hey Dare... Here's a good article on the subject, which agrees with your "governments screwed things up" side of the argument.
Wednesday, July 6, 2005 5:28:20 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
This response is from an African citizen living in Namibia, who makes his living and does his business there and who needs and is able to use the resources available. A kind of Africa seldom shown on television screens in Europe or America (not the famine rigged and war torn or the romantic touristic kind):

The problems in Africa can be traced to the following:
Leadership, Bad Policies, Corruption and Tribalism (yes even AIDS can be traced to this).
If people really want to help, they should start to recognize this and start to develop startegies TOGETHER with all of us Africans to combat this.

Increasing aid only increases the dependencies on aid. In our country, as in most other countries in Africa, aid promises are even budgeted for in the annual budget, while on the other hand expensive State Houses and monuments are being built. Free unconditional Aid is prefered by our leaders, even if it means that the countries who are offering it, bring their own laborers, who then compete against our own citizens.
Also aid packages usually come with their conditions – conditions which are laudable, like good governments - but they more likely bring also their consultancy and other indirect buisiness deals with them, deals we, who make our living here, need to compete against (goverments are not the only ones having these, Aid organizations have them too).
Often Aid promises are well meaning, but missplaced. Aid workers often have european or american perspectives, which often are not aproppriate. That is why most of the projects started, die ones the Aid workers leave.
African leaders should start saying NO TO AID as a first response and should accept only if it really fits in the long term strategy of decreasing dependencies and developing the economy, especially the private sector.

If aid get togethers, like these concerts, want to accomplish something usefull in the long term, they should change the emphasis and start pressuring leaders to reduce trade barriers, like those huge farm subsidies or pressure them to have policies, which puts pressure on african leaders to democratize their countries and put transparent, anti-corrupt policies in place. The emphasis on debt reduction only drowns all the other problems. Debt reduction will come anyway, since it really is bad debt, which cannot be recovered anyway.

Africa is not in as bad shape as people might think. Africa has a huge resource pool. Africans need and be encouraged (especially by their leaders) to use it.
Thursday, July 7, 2005 5:59:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I'm of Ugandan origins and I grew up in Kenya. Back in my high school days when I was sure I had all the answers I'd pipe up at any opportunity to blame African governments. But now as I look at things, we (Africans) have so much going against us.

One thing against us is our economies - developed for imperialism and the economic benefit of a few over the many. I remember the _massive_ coffee and tea plantations in Kenya, probably originally owned by Brits who "sold" them to African strong men once they left.

Another thing against us is history - a lot of the "tribalism" which works against Africans was bred by colonizers.

One of the largest things, however, is unfair markets. Wealthy European and American industries and agriculture enjoy artificial government subsidies to keep the value of things high so that people can maintain " a lifestyle" (think the one man family farmer as a prime example).

But our governments, wars, tribalism, and corruption do keep us poor, no doubt. There aren't any simple answers. I'm not even sure there are complex ones.
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