Home > About > Travel > Views > Foreigners

Causes of African Problems: Foreigners

Since they first arrived in Africa, missionaries of Christianity and Islam have encouraged Africans to ridicule and abandon their traditional religions and cultures as primitive and evil. Today, less than a third of Africans are neither Christian nor Muslim. Historically, in most invasions of foreign peoples, the invader has assimilated with the culture of the invaded, but Europeans believed that their race, religion and culture was superior.
Slave Trade
The slave trade lasted about three centuries, roughly 1550 to 1850. It was a blow to African physical and mental freedom. It reduced Africa's population by tens of millions (mostly through death), tore apart families, and demoralised the remaining Africans. It ended less because of abolitionists than because of industrialisation, reduced need for labour and increased need for markets.
From the 1880s until 1960, most Africans were part of a European colonial empire. Europeans invaded and divided up the continent. Vehement African resistance was crushed because of underdeveloped military technology and not acquiescence. Under the colonial system, Europeans lived in luxury and took away the raw materials. Africans lived in poverty, performed forced labour and were virtually slaves in some countries. They were used as cannon fodder in the world wars. Colonists largely deprived them of education as a means of keeping power, treated them like children and used racial claims of African intellectual inferiority. Rural development was ignored, industrialisation was discouraged, and the only development was the infrastructure necessary to remove goods from the country, such as highways and railroads leading to ports. By contrast, the colonists created a demand in the colonies for manufactured goods which was a catalyst for European industrialisation. In acts of spite, many Europeans destroyed whatever they could not take with them when evacuating on the eve of independence.
Nearly all present borders of African countries were established by colonial rulers. They are often drawn on latitude and longitude lines rather than geographical features. They often cut across ethnic groups, causing border conflicts and refugee problems. Many countries include more than one ethnic group, and in some cases like Nigeria, hundreds of groups that speak different languages. Many countries contain groups that would have preferred autonomy. The reverse argument is that there are too many small countries that do not co-operate economically. Their markets are too small for industrialisation to succeed.
Cold War
From about 1960 to 1990, Africa was a battleground for the Cold War between the United States and its capitalist Western allies, and the Soviet Union and its socialist allies. The casualties were mostly Africans, but the worst part of the wars was the economic damage to African countries and the effective revocation of Africa's newly gained independence.
Western countries supply arms to competing African factions and encourage strife to increase profits from arms sales.
Despite Africa's greater need, aid is much less to Africa than to other continents. Often "aid" comes with strings attached and costs more than it is worth, or causes more harm than good. The majority of aid money is used to pay high salaries to foreign aid workers and overseas offices, and Africans never see it. Much of the aid is handouts that encourage dependency instead of teaching self-reliance. Many aid projects are public relations schemes that cost the West very little and look good in the media but benefit only a small number of people.
Many aid workers impose inappropriate high-tech Western solutions to problems in projects that have a high failure rate. Often they require large amounts of capital, which is too expensive for individual investment, requires long-term loans, and makes failure catastrophic. Often they rely on expensive imported machines and equipment that need electricity or imported fuel, spare parts, technicians to repair and operate, and foreign money to purchase. Because of government bureaucracies, importing is often expensive, time-consuming and unreliable. Machine-dependent production displaces existing labour-dependent production. There is no need to save labour since unemployment is high and labour costs are relatively small. Foreigners often fail to consider how outside technologies like dams, irrigation, chemical fertilizer and farm machinery might transform the environment and disrupt the existing economy.
Foreigners often fail to work and communicate effectively with the local people and treat them with adequate respect. If they are not given any responsibility for project decisions or taught to manage the project themselves, the local people do not feel that the project is to their benefit, and they abandon it when the foreigners leave.
Western countries and agencies like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan money to desperate African countries at high interest rates and with strict penalties and unfair conditions. In the long run, the loaning agencies make huge profits at the expense of Africa. African countries pay more money in interest on their loans than they receive in aid.
Western corporations make large profits by obtaining cheap raw materials from Africa in exchange for manufactured goods and encouraging the production of export crops instead of local food. They sell destructive products like low-quality medicines, alcohol, tobacco and violent videos at elevated prices. They also sell high-tech machines at high prices that break down because Africans do not have the facilities to repair them. They encourage corruption and make secret trade deals with corrupt leaders.
Western products and western advertisements control the markets, and western television and film gives prestige to western products and values at the expense of African ones, creating a needlessly high demand for foreign imports.
The presence of Western tourists makes the local people work for tourism instead of their own needs; they must pander to Western comforts and consumerism. They produce hotels instead of local housing, souvenirs instead of furnishings, and Western food instead of food for the community. Tourism also destroys local values in favour of Western ones and encourages theft and prostitution.
Negative Journalism
Western journalists and organisations like CNN, Voice of America (VOA) and US Information Service (USIS) often encourage dependency and justify neocolonialism by depicting Westerners as generous volunteers and aid-giving benefactors whose help is necessary to rescue a hopeless continent. They rarely show African success stories; they focus on war, famine, disease, poverty, natural disasters, coups, corruption and devastation.
Western journalists ignore or discount Western economic exploitation of Africa as a major cause of Africa's problems. They instead blame the incompetence of its leaders and their failure to "open up its markets" to Western corporations. They love using meaningless, mind-closing, stereotyped expressions and labels like weapons of mass destruction, communism, terrorism, extremism, humanitarian aid, independent election observers, experts, free and fair elections, free world, free trade, democracy, and God bless America in order to bias the audience toward or against a particular ruler or country without presenting concrete facts. They encourage competition, individualism and capitalism; they discourage traditional co-operative ownership and work. They give lip service to democracy, but what Western leaders really want is African leaders who will dictate to their people to do whatever the West wants.
Often people throw up their hands in resignation and say that Africa's problems are too complex to be reduced to a few important causes. But the conservatives that are making the money often make gray areas out of black-and-white issues. Just as oil companies deny the man-made causes of global warming, and tobacco companies deny the addictive, cancer-causing properties of cigarettes, Western governments deny the neo-colonialist nature of their involvement in Africa.