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Africans Who Love to Beg and their Do-Gooder Friends



May 16, 2007







Is it unreasonable to argue that Africa’s greatest resource is its suffering? Bono, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, Kofi Annan, David Cameron, Angelina Jolie and other more junior members of the International Do-Gooder Club (IDGC) never waste few chances to lecture audiences on their moral responsibility to the benighted African continent.


Capitalized words like Justice, International Community, Conscience and Humanity are thrown about with reckless abandon. More radical members of the IDGC, safely making pronouncements between grant applications to the same institutions they purport to loathe, prefer to use Neocolonialism, Racism, the North-South Paradigm, Resistance and Solidarity.


Their African counterparts have formed the International Beggar Elite Club (IBEC). They don’t care what words are used as long as the conclusion is Cash Money.


What both these clubs agree on is that Africa is blessed with a wealth of natural resources; if it is on the periodical chart then you can bet that a miner can find it somewhere beneath the continent’s blood-soaked soils. Lest they be accused of being rapacious neo-imperialist corporate types, interested only in exploiting this natural wealth, the IDGC never misses a chance to praise Africans as the greatest resource, as a people whose potential will one day be unlocked by capacity-building development programs.


On the thesis that Africa needs charity to throw off the deadly shackles of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – ‘it’s an emergency not a cause’ according to the ever-funky Bono – many billions of dollars in the last three decades have traveled from the pocket of the western tax payer.


But what these secular saints do not mention is that Africa’s gold, coltan, diamonds, uranium, oil and copper, to name just a few, pale in value when compared to the continent’s single greatest resource: its misery.


While Asia, for one, is awash with profits made from the old fashioned and thoroughly discredited economic logic of buying and selling stuff, the IDGC and IBEC have hit on a new means of production. It is called Misericonomics or Misery Economics for the uninitiated and it operates like a giant employment and enrichment scheme for the two clubs.


This is how it works: First you need lots of death, disease and poverty for as many Africans as possible. This is easy after a few decades of yet another Western effort to save Africans from the communist embrace of the Red Bear that left them saddled with brutal dictators, awash in cheap weapons wielded by rebels whose manifesto, shared by the governments they opposed, amounted to, ‘give me Cash Money and I press trigger’.


The Africans have also been enthusiastic in the pursuit of maximum suffering by inventing forms of conflict that could teach trained CIA and KGB agents a thing or two. Whoever is to blame for the suffering, its supply is growing: many African countries are getting poorer at a time when most regions except parts of Western Europe are enjoying buoyant economic growth.


The next necessary condition for Misericonomics is the linkage of African suffering with Western paternalism. This is achieved by polemics blaming the West for Africa’s dire straits – by way of Neoliberal-driven globalization, slavery and colonialism - or hectoring it to act out of concern for a shared humanity.


It does not matter whether the reasons are genuine or not, the point is to prepare the western taxpayer to fund the aid effort which has grown into an annual industry worth over $7 billion and that the clubs now propose be doubled.


The final element of this new economic paradigm is for upwards of 30% and often far more to go into administrative costs for the IDCG while a significant amount of the remainder is commandeered by members of the IBEC.


MMK is a London-based writer and academic. 


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