In early history, nations or empires that wanted to expand would just invade unsuspecting people and take what they wanted. It might have been just the land or crops or precious metals or women. Whatever it was, they would just take it and kill anyone who got in their way. Seizing property from others was a quick way to increase your wealth and, most of all, influence. As time went on, it became immoral for a nation to take what it wanted. Eventually, at the end of World War II, aggression and theft was replaced with a thing called “Aid”. Foreign Aid became the vehicle to influence and inject wealth, someone else’s wealth, into an aggressive nation.
It was noted, by our President Harry Truman, that we would lead the way in this new vehicle for influence and wealth: “In addition, we will provide military advice and equipment to free nations which will cooperate with us in the maintenance of peace and security. Fourth, we must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. Their food is inadequate. They are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas. For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of these people.” Oh, he makes it seem so noble and altruistic. It basically was a new approach to exploitation and theft of natural resources.
How a lot of this works is brilliantly explained in an autobiography by John Perkins entitled, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”. I read this book a few years ago and I still get chills from his explanation of how we exploit innocent nations for the sake of control and greed. Even Osama bin Laden referred to it in one of his verbal condemnations of the western world. Reading it will give you an understanding of the seemingly senseless hatred the leaders of Iran have towards western nations. Here is an example of Mr. Perkins’ explanation:
“Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly-paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools included fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex and murder. They play a game as old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization.”
How do we escape from this predicament? Perhaps the first thing we do is encourage fledgling nations to become self sufficient through other means. Government shouldn’t be in the Foreign Aid business whatsoever. What needs to happen on a world wide basis is for a big increase in philanthropy.
The religious community can replace the government run efforts through God driven missions that are sincere in helping mankind and promoting peace. Another vehicle is to promote the rich and famous to give something back. Two great living examples of this are singer Alicia Keys, who personally built a rural hospital in Kenya serving residents who had no access to healthcare, and rap star 50 Cent, who made over $200 million in a promotional deal with Coca Cola and used that money to distribute one billion meals to povertystricken children throughout the continent of Sub-Saharan Africa. May this become a living example of what many of us can do when we have been blessed – “Pass it on”.
We should also remember an ancient Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach that man to fish and he will eat forever.”
This is so true today. Instead of “feeding the hungry” we should be promoting agri-business and full processing of natural resources instead of letting some other entity provide such.
Finally, our entrepreneurs should strongly consider opening subsidiaries somewhere on the African Continent. Prudently, they should pick venues where good government exists and will allow them room to be successful. As those ventures grow, they will provide countless new jobs and provide a positive growth in nations’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The year, 2012, will be the beginning of an organized effort in promoting this movement. We can win this.
We are evolving into taking things into our own hands and settling only for success. Africa will not only survive; it will prosper.
Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.