Giving Aid to Developing Countries is Wrong

This is going to be one of those painful posts in which I advocate a view which is just unacceptable, and, quite frankly, of which I am pretty sure I don’t agree myself. However, it is always good to think about these things, no matter how much of a “taboo” the topic might be.

To explain the title, I will focus entirely on African countries, or to be more specific, the typical view the media has given of what an African country is like. Whether this statement is universally applicable… well… that’s a different story.

So… Let’s start my explanation by sketching the typical view of a poor, African country. A good example is the northern part of Burkina Faso, a country located just below the Sahara on the Western side of the continent. In this area, there are lots of problems: hunger, infant mortality, the ever extending desert… everything you might imagine. This is what the situation is like in many parts of Africa, especially in the part of the continent that lies just underneath the Sahara.

Now, the question is, how was this caused? How did this hunger come about and why is the once fertile ground transforming into desert? The answer is simple: Europe.

When in the 1500s Europeans got a bit bored of their own politics, they decided that it would be fun to start exploring the world. A noble cause, you might say, because exploration leads to more knowledge and thus better understanding. Unfortunately, though, it didn’t stop there. These Europeans started to colonise the areas they discovered, claiming them as their “property.” And that’s when it went wrong.

Of course, there were already problems in Africa. After all, people didn’t live in the most ideal circumstances imaginable, as rain and food were scarce. However, even though they still lived in the way Europeans had done many centuries before, they were fine. Europe thought otherwise, though. They decided that these people had to be “educated” and to be given Christian values. They started trading them as slaves and, slowly but steady, they ruined (sub-Saharan) African society.

Since then, a lot has happened and a lot has changed. European society evolved and colonialism and slavery became unacceptable. However, these changes came too late, as by then, Europe had already left its mark: there were automatic weapons, there were country borders running straight through cultural nations and there was a high amount of import of technology from Europe to Africa.

This had a couple of consequences, some predictable, some less predictable. Quite obviously, if you give an angry tribe a lot of automatic guns, they might just pick them up and start using them for the wrong reasons. Thus, a lot of genocides can be attributed to this wonderful new technology imported by the Europeans. At the same time, the amount of surviving children (and thus the population) increased due to the aid given by Europe, which had changed its ideals and decided that these people had to be helped rather than enslaved.

Less obvious, on the other hand, is something which is often forgotten: this population growth led to the increasing size of the Sahara desert. In an ongoing cycle, the more people there were, the more animals they needed to subsist, meaning that more vegetation was eaten which eventually led to the desert expanding further and further. At the same time, there were more mouths to feed, which led to more hunger. There was a need for even more aid, because the children were starving. Consequently, Europe started sending food, and in this way, they once again reduced the amount of children who died of starvation. But guess what that leads to…

While population kept increasing, the amount of fertile soil kept decreasing, forcing more people to live on less subsistence. That is the situation we have ended up in now, and there seems to be no way out. Due to European involvement and its ideals, much like the US with their imperialism in countries such as Korea and Vietnam, many African countries have ended up in a situation with no solution.

Just like Europe in the Middle Ages, or perhaps even 2000 years earlier, people in Africa got by because the population was low. Yes, there was a lot of infant mortality and yes, people died young, but this simply meant that there were less mouths to feed. The people who did survive, however, had enough food to live on, and this gave them the opportunity to innovate. One could say that infant mortality is the reason that Europe managed to invent technology in the first place.

Africa has never had that chance, because the Europeans beat them to it. They were forced to remain at the level of survival, because there were too many people for the space and technology they possessed. If, however, and this is the painful part, African population would go down to a natural and manageable level (thus meaning that we would let those people starve), then the situation can improve. From that point on, they would be able to innovate and think further than just their hunger.

Of course, this is never going to happen. Western countries are not going to stop giving aid, and nobody will be willing to sacrifice millions of lives for “the greater good”. Instead, the West will remain that superior, intelligent region which tries to “save” the weak and the needy. Charities to help these starving children will remain active and will only grow in size as the situation worsens, causing Europeans to be more willing to give away some of their money to save the unfortunate.

That situation isn’t going to improve any time soon. Instead, it is only going to get worse. The Sahara will grow even further and there will be even more mouths to feed. Prosperity is still far away, and it might take decades, if not centuries, before hunger in Africa can be properly eradicated, and all of that is to blame on that one continent, which has made so many mistakes and which has made so many people suffer to a terrible extent. Europe is to blame, and there is no proper solution.

There is one final thing I really want to make clear, and that is that all those people who support or even dedicate their lives to help people in Africa deserve the greatest respect, and none of this is meant against them. They are doing the best they can, and the things they have achieved are wonderful. Letting people die for “the greater good” is not something I would ever support, and stopping all aid for Africa is unthinkable. However, the entire issue is something to consider and to remember. Europe is not better than these countries. In fact, Europe is inferior, because we have been so blind and irrational to make the mistakes we made, and this has cost millions of people to live in what you might call misery. It is not something we should act upon, but just something we need to keep in mind. That is why I won’t categorise this as an opinion, because opinions are things to act upon, while the purpose of this post was nothing other than insight and perhaps thoughtful discussion.

So… if this was insightful, please do press the like button or share it on social media. If, however, you disagree, please do leave a comment! This is a controversial and difficult topic, so it’s always good to hear different thoughts!

More on this topic from Dean Richards:

The Truth About Your Country

Different Perspectives: The West Is No Less Violent Than The Middle East

Being Critical of Your Own View

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About Dean Richards

A young student with a passion for writing. Aspiring author and human rights activist, but I write about anything. "If you don't like how things are, change it! You're not a tree!" New blog post every Monday!
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7 Responses to Giving Aid to Developing Countries is Wrong

  1. mbman says:

    Climate change also increases desertification. I believe it was an american who first discovered the power of the fossil fuel. And I believe its the US that consumes the most fossil fuels.

    Just saying.

  2. Nada says:

    I think you have a monopoly on choosing the “wrong” words 😛
    however, I think this is something “To keep OUT of mind” because you started out wrong when you called Europe ,almost envading Africa, “Exploring”.
    it’s in our human nature to want more than we have even if it was enough, and Europe was greedy enough to sacrifice the lives of millions for there own “greater good” and they hadn’t stop until there was no more to take.
    Now the one and only solution is giving Africa enough AID to be a country again, which is not charity as much as a repay for what they have done.
    furthermore, it is, I believe, their choice to make ,whether they want to sacrifice their lives for “the greater good” or not.

    • Well, the exploring was just the first step. In the sentence after that I elaborated by saying that they went further than just exploring and, as you say, into “invading” the continent. Now, you’re probably right about the fact that we need to give Africa enough aid to be a country again, and indeed, it is a repayment for the terrible things we’ve done, but it remains difficult because it is just not the most “efficient” way of getting there. Of course, I’m not an economist, so efficiency is not always a priority, but the fact that giving this aid will only worsen the problem on the short term is problematic.

      Finally, I’m glad you say I have a monopoly on using the wrong words. I kind of like that 😛 The “right” words are usually passive ones which avoid saying what someone means, so then I’d rather use the wrong words!

  3. I agree with your title, but your missing the most important part.

    What I’m about to say may blow your mind: AFRICANS ARE NOT HELPLESS. If the west will stop systematically undermining the economy in Africa, people will eat African grown food. Even though it is rarely reported, Africa has its own food & its own farmers. You know where their food is? In warehouses, unsold because of cheap foreign imported food.

    You are right in many ways, but please stop robbing people of human dignity in the worst attempt ever to plead their case.

    • Of course they aren’t helpless, and I do know about how difficult African farmers have it due to flooding of the market by European suppliers, but it is doubtful whether those farmers would be able to produce enough food to feed everyone. In the end, Africans are not helpless, but they are quite close to it because of the ever increasing “aid” from Europe.

      Those farmers you mention struggle terribly because they can hardly sell their wares, because they have to compete with cheap surpluses from Europe, and because of that they will have a very hard time getting food for everyone without having the prices quadruple.

      To me, talking about their weaknesses is not robbing them of their human dignity. When we talk about the Holocaust, we’re also not robbing Jews of their human dignity in the same way as talking about Africa like I did above shouldn’t be a problem for their human dignity. Of course they aren’t helpless, but they simply never stood a chance against European imperialism.

  4. AirAKose says:

    I agree, but for different reasons.
    I believe countries should worry about their own economic troubles first. This is selfish, I know, but if we collapse trying to bear the wait of another country, then their fall will be even harder. This leads into the idea that we should let them learn to care for themselves and cope with their economic situation instead of spoon-feeding them. “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” If we allow them to grow at their own pace, they’ll have a much easier time coping with any problems that arise in the future, and they will be happier in the end not having us ruining their cultures. Not every inch of the world has to be “advanced” and industrialized; it seems more like a ploy for companies to profit from making another culture dependent on their merchandise.

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