In these contemporary times, Africa is still a charity case for Western superpowers and their aid industry, while turning a blind eye to the root, structural causes of poverty. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and other Western charities have largely filled the vacuum left in service delivery in most African countries. NGOs play a huge role in the provision of education and healthcare – which are prerogatives of the state.
NGOs are the major purveyors of the “development” discourse, seeking to help the “underdeveloped” African countries. They rarely seek to answer the question of what the real causes of poverty are. Probably the reluctance to make this deep inquiry stems from the fact that NGOs are used by the big Western powers to conceal the clandestine, underhand operations by their gigantic multinational firms that are keeping Africa under the shackles of poverty. These attitudes also have their history in colonialism, where missionaries were the appendage of the imperial superstructure. Missionaries came to “civilize” Africa, and this has now been replaced with more human terms such as “development.” But the concept remains largely unchanged.
Western multinational firms stand on the neck of African countries, and yet the governments which abet the behaviors of these firms, and benefit from them, dare to tell African countries that they need “good governance” for them to be developed as per Western terms. The incessant flows of aid have done more harm than good to Africa, creating a vicious cycle of dependency that is proving hard to dismantle. The elite convergence of the Western superpowers, multinational executives, and the executives of international and local NGOs in creating a pernicious form of opportunism as these elites do not care about getting rid of poverty completely but taking advantage of the mess and inequality created by centuries of imperialism.
While the United Kingdom, the United States, and other European powers are leaders in international aid, the same countries are also leaders in greenhouse gas emissions, tax haven networks, and taking corporate profits out of Africa. These are the real issues perpetuating poverty in Africa, and they conceal that by giving back aid, which pales in comparison to the money they steal from Africa. The continent is painted as needing “the help of the West” when it is the West (and other capitalist superpowers) ripping the livelihoods of Africans into irretrievable pieces.
Development NGOs pride themselves in procuring government aid or charity donations for their ‘mission’ in Africa, but this does not impart skills of emancipation to Africans. The same NGOs, though unwittingly, have cemented the neoliberal ideologies of the Western superpowers, that postulate the state playing a minimalist role in the economy – the state must not descend into the economic arena; this realm should be left to the private sector where profits matter over humanity.