By Nomazulu Thata
The EU Marshall Plan with Africa is the buzzword and future music in Germany today that is caring currency in the incumbent government of CDU/CSU and this idea could be recognized as a basis to redefine foreign aid to Africa. Aid in Africa was meant to alleviate poverty on the continent, but it has become a synonym for poverty and (in global terms) underdevelopment. The aim of International aid was to try and make the world a better place in post-colonial countries. Aid has been flowing to Africa since the 1950s and NGOs went to Sub-Saharan Africa in their hundreds and thousands to fight fatal illnesses, alleviate famine, provided water sources, and provided teachers to facilitate education as the symbol and pillar of sustainable development.
Yet despite the trillions of dollars that have found their way to sub-Saharan Africa, these developing nations are worse off today than they were during the colonial era. Instead Aid has been mismanaged in such a way that the intended beneficiaries are poorer, and the rich have become richer. In a nutshell foreign aid, has been mismanaged in unprecedented ways. Foreign Aid is siphoned off to buy military equipment, to finance white elephantine projects and to indulge in massive corruption. Most African governments are over bloated and, as a result, some African governments in the south Sahara have national treasury budgets that are sustained by foreign aid. Factually, aid is spent on government infrastructure deals, natural resources deals and other dubious and often corrupt projects activities.
The UK ODA, or the Official Developing Aid Body , is the official financing body responsible for distributing foreign aid in Sub-Saharan Africa. The challenges facing most of the countries in Africa are mainly caused by their inability to control gross corruption in their national institutions. Whereas the initial Marshal Plan after the WW2 was meant to lift Europe’s shattered economies out of the social and economic disaster of WW2, some Asian countries were also given similar amounts of foreign aid and successfully managed to lift 700 million people out of poverty. But China, without foreign aid, managed to solve its poverty problems by utilising its own natural and human resources and succeeded. China today has a middle-class economy and is one of the leading industrialized countries in the global economy, literally challenging the USA.
Sub-Saharan Africa has long been accustomed to receiving foreign aid and free money. This, however, has created a syndrome of dependency. The conditioned free aid from the West cannot be of sustainable use to any government. It creates an easy come, easy go syndrome.
Foreign aid induces corruption in some countries in the sub-Saharan Africa, mainly because it is guaranteed 50 billion dollars annually for its total budget spending. It is this foreign aid that induces such a vicious cycle of corruption in the receiving countries. It is in this context that a paradigm shift is necessary to redefine the whole question of aid to Sub-Saharan Africa. The concept of aid to developing countries must be revised. Rather than giving free financial assistance to some corrupt governments which use foreign aid to pep up their recurrent expenditures and for personal use, another form of cooperation is imperative.
It is in this backdrop that a new form of EU Marshall Plan with Africa has been proposed. It will, it is hoped, alleviate poverty in the Sub-Sahara which is the main cause of migration. An alternative Marshal Plan with Africa should have a holistic approach to development and poverty reduction, the envisaged result of developmental cooperation of African countries with Europe.
In the light of the present wave of migration, which reached its peak in 2015, about one million migrants entered Germany, some of whom came from the African continent, a new fundamental shift is therefore required to address African economic, social, and political issues in connection with the proposed EU Marshall Plan with Africa. Most African migrants are fleeing their countries because of the poverty and insecurity caused by poor government management of their economies. The Mediterranean Sea cannot continue to be a death trap for African people seeking a new life in Europe.
Some Africa’s governments have failed their young people who now see Europe as their only hope. It is for this reason that young people are willing to risk hazardous journeys over the Sahara and the Mediterranean Sea to seek “a future” that is not available in their respective countries. Not all the migrants are economically induced refugees. Many are escaping from wars, conflicts, and social violence; women are forced to leave their country of birth for “women specific” reasons elaborated in the Geneva convention. The German government is the mastermind behind the proposed EU Marshall Plan with Africa that intends to develop new economic and social strategies to replace the Cotonou Agreement with a fresh and new partnership agreement regarding the African continent and Europe. The aim is to seek sustainable solutions to new challenges facing the Africa continent. Africa’s potential must be identified and must offer solutions for young Africans. African solutions must be found in Africa and by Africans on the African continent.
The original Marshall Plan also known as the European Recovery Program and was the brainchild of United States Secretary of State George C. Marshall. The new EU Marshall Plan with Africa in its verbatim sentence defines itself as follows: “The focus of the African Marshall Plan will be on fair trade, more private investment, more bottom-up economic development, more entrepreneurial spirit and above all more jobs for the young and growing African people in the continent.”
The EU Marshall Plan with Africa’s formulated aims, and objectives are to strengthen African ownership and to reduce donor dependency and to bring hope for marginalized communities especially women agricultural communities in rural areas. The African countries and the European countries must be partners that engage with each other at eye-level; on the same page, and never on a donor- recipient relationship: that very engagement that failed to alleviate poverty in most African communities for decades of years since the fifties.
The first part of this document is to highlight challenges related to the African continent. Highlighting challenges bedevilling Africa helps in planning a strategy for cooperation between the two continents. In the background we should never lose sight of issues regarding migration and the suffering it causes, especially in North Africa. Many Africans are trapped into slavery, suffer thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean Sea and are victims of human-trafficking and other forms of exploitation induced by migration.
The central focus of this document closely examines the plight of women in African communities, especially in rural areas. An alternative Marshal Plan with Africa should be to engage actively, assist rural women to help themselves mostly in their communities. Women are the niche in Africa that bears the brunt of poverty, famine, and underdevelopment. They suffer this much more than their male counterparts. Poverty is feminine and it is the push and pull that fuels migration.
To alleviate poverty in African communities in the Sub-Sahara continent, the Alternative Marshall Plan must holistically offer its assistance to the continent’s marginalized societies and rural communal regions. Poverty is a rural phenomenon in African societies. The development of rural communities depends on being able to afford projects that bring sustainable and durable communal setups such as durable housing, clean water & sanitation, and food securities. When rural development is guaranteed, rural communities will stabilize and development becomes sustainable, and this will reduce unnecessary internal and external displacements of citizens and migration.
The second part of this document is to make concrete recommendations to the European Union on how the Alternative EU Marshall Plan with Africa can reach out to the communities that need such assistance most. The proposed Alternative EU Marshall Plan with Africa, unlike Foreign Aid, should be utilized mostly by project-oriented NGOs or European/African expertise in areas needed by the rural communities in engaging economic, social, and cultural cooperation. The Alternative EU Marshall Plan with Africa therefore will be a panacea to durable projects that target poverty elimination in communities. Inter-National projects such as energy and transport infrastructure development can provide millions of job opportunities to young people in the continent.
The current document EU Marshall Plan with Africa is a positive start because it emphasises the need for young Africans to see Africa as their own continent which has all the answers to their social, economic, and political needs. Young Africans must see a bright future in Africa. In 2050, the population of Africa will have doubled to two billion. This factually means that the continent must create 20 million jobs every year. Job creation and ownership of durable and sustainable projects will indeed stabilize African communities. Solutions to African problems that bedevil African growth are in Africa and will be done by Africans with the European technical knowhow, and the African knowhow, which is already around, that is of great necessity to transform lives durably and sustainably.