Forum: Live 8 Concert wrong way for Africa
(The Washington Times, July 10, 2005 ; p.B5)
Whatever you may think of the performances, the statements by the
various artists and announcers in last
weekend's Live 8 concert -- 10 different concerts broadcast worldwide
by some of the world's most
well-known musical celebrities -- amounted to a curious amalgam of
feel-good sentiments leavened with
The multimedia extravaganza aimed at raising awareness and also
pressuring world political leaders,
meeting at the G-8 conference in Scotland, to relieve African
poverty. Millions were urged to sign an
online petition demanding Third World debt cancellation and doubled
aid for these countries.
During the concert, impresario Bob Geldof hectored his audience
with sarcasm, "Eight people in a
five-star hotel on a golf course are going to have to listen to us."
Madonna, when not lewdly thrusting
her pelvis at the audience and sprinkling profanities here and there,
called for a "revolution to change
the world." Sting ominously warned the G-8 leaders with newly found
lyrics: "Every vow you break, every
step you take, every single day, every word you say, every game you
play... we'll be watching you."
Despite the incongruous posturing of multimillionaire rock and
pop stars and lesser performers who
simply savored the global publicity, a private charity such as this
can raise millions of dollars for a
worthy cause. Twenty years ago, Mr. Geldof organized the similar Live
Aid concerts and reportedly raised
$2 billion for African famine relief.
Missing from this charity, however, is a clear understanding of
the problem's causes. Simply
throwing more money at Africa -- particularly at the government level
-- never solved anything. What
happened to the $2 billion from the Live Aid concerts? What happened
to the other $25 billion given by
other private and public donors over the last decade? Why did African
economic output drop 35 percent
since the Live Aid concert?
Africa continues mired in poverty, as well as debt and squalid
social conditions and unrest.
Dominated by state terrorism and wanton carnage, countless thousands
of its people have been uprooted by
wars and genocide and have been made refugees in their own countries.
Economic stability and growth are
not possible where brutality, oppression and political tyranny rule.
Of 54 African countries, less than 15 are democratic. Africa
represents 70 percent of world AIDS
cases, and more than 12 million people have already died from it. In
countries with tremendous wealth in
mineral resources, including gold, diamonds and precious metals,
corrupt African political leaders have
garnered it for themselves and their supporters, and consigned
ordinary Africans to poverty, misery,
even starvation by sloganeering, brutal repression and arrant plunder.
In a new book, "Africa Unchained: A Blueprint for Africa's
Future," economist George B.N. Ayittey
argues there are really two Africas. The first is the traditional,
indigenous Africa, the country of the
peasant majority who produce the nation's agricultural and mineral
wealth, and who struggle to survive
among their splintered tribes and societies.
Modern Africa is the second, Mr. Ayittey says. This is where
"functionally illiterate elites and
parasitic minority groups have created a bizarre politico-economic
monstrosity that admits of no rule of
law, no accountability, no democracy of any form, and even no sanity."
In their respective countries, power-hungry, ruling gangster
elites have debauched all government
institutions -- the military,civil service, police and judiciary --
through intimidation, graft and
murder. Mr. Ayittey documents how these crooks and scoundrels have
used the instruments of the state to
enrich themselves and impoverish everyone else.
Nigerian scholar Ikenna Anokwute adds, "Imagine John Gotti or Al
Capone as president of the United
States. Well, welcome to the reign of thieves and vagabonds, welcome
to our Nigeria today, a gangster's
Among political and economic reforms needed to get Africa on
track, Mr. Ayittey says the current
corruption can be ended only by creating a continentwide, independent
judiciary, military, press and
political infrastructure, so free markets can flourish.
Simply pouring money into the current rat hole, like the money from
Live 8, won't solve these systemic
problems, let alone eliminate sub-Saharan poverty. It will only
funnel money into corrupt pockets.
Afterward, the rich rock stars can shrug their shoulders, walk away,
and say, "We've done what we could,
but it didn't work."
A Michigan-based columnist and writer whose articles appear
regularly in various local and national
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