Don\’t send food to Africa

Finally, people are getting what should be done when there\’s a looming famine:

In Kenya, Save The Children is giving people vouchers to buy food in local markets. Several other aid groups are piloting similar schemes, some of them simply handing out cash to people who need food, or transferring it to their mobile phones using the country\’s wildly popular Mpesa mobile money system. At a stroke, this boosts businesses and cuts out the sometimes months-long lag between food aid being bought, shipped and distributed by the big international agencies.

\”If you had people needing extra food in the West, you wouldn\’t give them food parcels, you\’d pay money into their bank accounts,\” says a veteran British aid worker in Nairobi. \”The US gives food stamps. Why has it taken so long to come around to the same thinking in Africa?\”

It isn\’t that there\’s a general shortage of food. It\’s that some people don\’t have the money to buy the food that is there.

So, give them money, not wait 6 months to ship food from wherever.

Oh, and the reason this isn\’t done more generally?

Politics. The EU would prefer to send the food mountains, the US to send Mid-West food on US owned ships.

Would you believe it was actually George Bush the younger who tried to change this system and was rebuffed by Congress?

15 thoughts on “Don\’t send food to Africa”

  1. Give people free food and the farmers are out of business. Dependency is the goal here.

  2. “It may also be because aid workers get a buzz out of throwing bags of rice to grateful crowds of picanninies.”

    Indeed. if this catches on, there’ll be a few tear-stained handkerchiefs at Mercedes and Land Rover and Toyota!

  3. So if there is no shortage, why has the price not fallen to meet demand?

    Tim adds: Because demand must be “effective demand” and people without money don’t have any effective demand. Amartya Sen got his Nobel in part for pointing this out.

  4. Would you believe it was actually George Bush the younger who tried to change this system and was rebuffed by Congress?

    Quite easily. History will judge GWB a lot more kindly than the contemporary media did.

  5. Something else that needs to be contemplated:

    When Live Aid was going on Ethiopia’s population was approx 28 mil. Now it’s 46 mil.

    Why are we encouraging such huge population growth is an area that is patently non self sustaining?

  6. The only thing “non self sustaining” about Ethiopia is the economic model. You could “sustain” a hundred million people on the Isle Of Wight so long as they weren’t stupid enough to try subsistence farming, and instead created export industries.

    Africa starves because of a lack of global capitalism. Any economy that doesn’t shift the vast majority of its participants off the land- either by government forces or the preferable but equally distressing market forces- stays poor. That’s all there is to it. The first step towards wealth is to stop farming.

  7. That’s 41 million more people who could be selling us the fripperies that make life that much wealthier. Every consumer is a producer. So long as they aren’t foolish enough to all try to be farmers.

  8. I though one of the issues associated with economic development was the CAP.

    The first move away from subsistence farming is to industrialised farming. Don’t we (the Europeans) scupper that by dumping the over production under the CAP onto the African markets thereby stopping them taking this route out of poverty?

  9. ” Don’t we (the Europeans) scupper that by dumping the over production under the CAP onto the African markets thereby stopping them taking this route out of poverty?”

    Indeed we do, and we should be ashamed of it

  10. The first move away from subsistence farming is to industrialised farming. Don’t we (the Europeans) scupper that by dumping the over production under the CAP onto the African markets thereby stopping them taking this route out of poverty?

    Two points: firstly, that that evolutionary model only applies to a primitive civilisation, since it has to build each level on the previous one; industrial farming, steam, oil and coal, nuclear, etc. An underdeveloped area of an advanced civilisation doesn’t have to do that; it can leapfrog since all the knowledge and skills already exist in the world and just need deploying in that area. The son of a first contact agriculturalist can go to University and become a nuclear engineer, in the extreme case.

    Secondly, “The West” (Europe/America) didn’t have an external market to sell food to. It would be nice for some African producers to be able to sell to us, but we already have enough food, so really they need to develop internal markets, as well as external ones, by selling shit to each other.

    Consumers are producers, producers are consumers. Africa is simultaneously not consuming enough and not producing enough.

  11. Good Points Ian.

    I just have an issue with such massive population growth supported by 25 years of aid – it just seems with the inherent instability of the area that is just “manufacturing” massive suffering sooner or later….

  12. Johnnydub-

    Reading this exchange again I see I’ve committed that ghastly sin of not answering what you said, but ranting off about something different. Apologies.

    I would agree that dumping subsidised food overproduction from the CAP is indeed a bad thing for African farmers and something we (“we” being Europe) should be ashamed of. For some reason I seem to have addressed the issue of tarriffs limiting their sales to us, which is an entirely different thing 🙁

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