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Opinion

Asfa-Wossen Asserate: If Germany really wants to help Africa…

…it has many opportunities. Most importantly, it has to question traditional concepts, in both the areas of economic policy and development aid, writes the great-nephew of the last Ethiopian emperor.

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'To preserve Europe, we must save Africa'

On the one hand, Germany should keep its traditional culture of welcoming. On the other, it should face the reality of the root causes of migration and flight: the biggest exporters of migrants on this planet are the African tyrants who don't offer their own people opportunities to lead a decent life in their own countries. Thanks to Western appeasement policies over the last 50 years, those dictators are supported by subsidies coming out of European taxpayers' pockets.

If Africa is to have a future, Europe first of all has to bid farewell to its disastrous economic and trade policies. It must, once and for all, stop subsidizing its agricultural industry at the expense of developing countries. It must, finally, push for effective international measures against worldwide landgrabbing which deprives the world's poor countries of their most valuable asset – arable land. Africa needs a broadly based sponsorship of rural agriculture and a ban on imported "dumping" products which undercut local food producers.

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Women: the key to Africa's future

Most importantly, it is necessary to encourage African women – they are the key to Africa's future. If Africa wants to successfully deal with the problem of demographic development, it must focus on women.

Urbanization, imported judicial and economic systems, new media and modified age structures have led to dramatic changes within the social and cultural value systems in Africa. These days, one often witnesses a blend of old and new values which, especially in urban environments, become redefined again and again. Sometimes, wealth and power appear to be the dominating values in today's Africa. As a consequence, social, familial, but also administrative relationships are monetarized to a high degree. This problem, however, does not only exist in Africa. The demons of greed and voracity are on the loose all across our globalized world. Capitalism in its current shape is neither fair nor sustainable. Therefore, our key challenge in the 21st century is to reconcile market demands with humanity.

Even the best intentions can have fatal consequences. Free food aid from western countries ruins the market for local African agriculture. Rather too often development monies don't reach the people who were supposed to get them – especially, when they are transferred as direct budget support. In the hands of the ruling kleptocrats, the money turns into a tool used for retention of power, providing a lubricant for the rampant corruption.

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Development aid must facilitate self-initiative

Not only western economists, like William Easterly of New York University or Scottish Nobel Prize winner in economics Angus Deaton, are now criticizing common development aid concepts as totally misguided. What is required urgently is an international "audit office for development aid," modeled on the eponymous German institution (German National Audit Office, "Bundesrechnungshof"), which examines on an annual basis how the public sector has handled taxpayer money. After all, development aid only makes sense if it actually facilitates people's self-initiative.

Africa needs the kind of development aid that is sustainable and relies on self-initiative, for one thing is certain: No one from the outside – not America, not Europe, not China – will be able to "save" Africa. The continent can only achieve that by itself, if its people regain confidence and faith in their own strength. Only then will the exodus of Africa's talent come to an end.

Africans have to take their fate into their own hands. Europe can and should help them, so that the hemorrhaging African continent can turn into a continent of the future.

Dr. Prince Asfa-Wossen Asserate is a member of the former Ethiopian imperial dynasty who has been living in Germany for more than 40 years. He is a business consultant for Africa and the Middle East, as well as a bestselling writer and political analyst. In addition to a number of literary awards, he received Germany's Federal Cross of Merit in 2016.

 

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