July 6, 2005


"For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!": The Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, 35, says that aid to Africa does more harm than good. The avid proponent of globalization spoke with SPIEGEL about the disastrous effects of Western development policy in Africa, corrupt rulers, and the tendency to overstate the AIDS problem. (Der Spiegel, 7/04/05)

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people.

If Europe had produced a Shikwati it might not have likewise been ruined by the Marshall Plan's funding of the bureaucratic welfare state. He's featured prominentlty in Paul Driessen's excellent, Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 6, 2005 8:24 PM

Even by your standards, Orrin, that's remarkably silly.

Africa never got Marshall Plan aid but somehow or other, it remains behind Europe by any measure.

It did get an enormous amount of agricultural investment, almost all of it from Europe, in 1946-55, and while the only part of it anybody remembers is the Kenyan Ground Nut Scheme, much of it was successful.

In fact, if you subtract what Africa produces that derives from those ag investments, the rest of what it produces would hardly fill up a National Guard armory in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 7, 2005 12:16 AM

Yes, it not only kept them locked into agricultural economies but made them net importers instead of the exporters they had been. If their goal was to destroy Africa it worked. Of course, as David is fond of pointing out, if you just look at the Marshall Plan as a deliberate effort to destroy Europe so that we wouldn't have to intervene in their wars anymore it worked too.

Posted by: oj at July 7, 2005 12:22 AM


OJ remains blissfully ignorant of political conditions on the ground in Western Europe of the late 1940s. The economic largesse was necessary to eliminate the massive support for the Communists from ordinary Western and Central Europeans. The political alternatives were Social Democratic or Christian Democratic parties, which were both statist when it came to economics. Short-term aid did the trick.

The liberals were merely the party of the elites and have remained so pretty much ever since in Europe.

Posted by: bart at July 7, 2005 8:35 AM


No, I'm saying a period of communism would have been preferable.

Posted by: oj at July 7, 2005 9:04 AM

Not sure what the silliness is supposed to be here, Harry. Shikwati's saying that further aid is counterproductive since the kleptocracy has gotten so efficient at diverting it. You're saying, apparently, that the most effective aid was delivered fifty years ago. So far as I can see your argument isn't inconsistent with his.

Posted by: joe shropshire at July 7, 2005 11:23 AM


You still don't get it. Harry thinks Africa was better off Marxist.

Posted by: oj at July 7, 2005 11:26 AM

Marshall Plan aid was far more directed and the nations to which it was directed far more capable of dealing with the aid more or less honestly than sub-Saharan Africa is and was.

The fundamental problem in sub-Saharan Africa as in much of the Third World is a failure to recognize property and contractual rights of individuals which will enable them to create wealth on their own. The European nations that received the Marshall Plan funds had such systems.

I don't know if Harry feels that Africa would be better off Marxist but it is clear that OJ feels, contrary to all evidence, that Europe and the US would be better off today if Europe had been.

Posted by: bart at July 7, 2005 2:54 PM


They didn't.

Posted by: oj at July 7, 2005 4:54 PM

You might want to look at measures like per capita GDP and basic human services before you go off into your delusional universe again.

Posted by: bart at July 7, 2005 5:11 PM

Look at basic humans first.

Posted by: oj at July 7, 2005 5:29 PM


Last year, I had to go to Equatorial Guinea on business. The President of Equatorial Guinea became President not through an election but by killing the old President, his uncle, and, inter alia, eating his testicles. Everybody in high office there is a relative, and they've stolen millions and millions of dollars from the people there.

Chirac and Schroeder may be bad guys but I sincerely doubt either ate their uncle's or their predecessor's testicles.

Posted by: bart at July 7, 2005 5:47 PM

Africa would be better off tending to its vines and fig trees, most of which it got a leg up on thanks to European gifts.

On the other hand, European and Arab slaving interrupted any sensible political development that Africans might conceivably have managed on their own.

Economic development did not, and despite Orrin's repeated assertions, will not, of itself, lead to desirable political development.

About 30 years ago, the darwinist Paul Colinvaux, in 'Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare,' predicted that Africa would be the way Africa is. He did not say anything about political systems, and it's likely that Africa would have gotten to its present state under any political theory.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 7, 2005 5:51 PM


Indeed, economic development can lead to an awful political state as it has in Europe.

Posted by: oj at July 7, 2005 6:00 PM


Chirac would gladly lick yours if it would keep him out of jail another week.

Posted by: oj at July 7, 2005 6:01 PM

Fellatio is far less savage than cannibalism.

Posted by: bart at July 7, 2005 6:51 PM

Ah, that's the French in you speaking.

Posted by: oj at July 7, 2005 6:54 PM

Not if it's done right.

Posted by: joe shropshire at July 7, 2005 8:42 PM

No doubt that explains the exodus of Europeans to black Africa.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at July 10, 2005 6:00 PM