Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How to help Africa?

It's a question that has been asked time and again over the past 40 years and it seems we're no closer to finding an answer. This report on Africa's aid addiction suggests that corruption from the highest to the lowest levels remains the biggest issue. Tearfund produced a good research paper on it in 1999.

It also makes me wonder about the effectiveness of disciple-making in Africa. No question there's some great work going on by some great organisations (I support Great Lakes Outreach and Tearfund) but there's also no doubt in my mind that corruption exists. One of the biggest problems I encountered nearly ten years in Burundi was staff stealing from aid agencies.

But here's my question, 51.5% of Africa are in some way aligned to Christianity with more than 380 million Christians, yet corruption has neither been stemmed or dealt with. The implication should be fairly obvious. But how do you live in a society where corruption is endemic? It's not easy at all.

A couple of observations: firstly we mustn't be as arrogant to think that corruption is their problem. No question that corruption exists in the UK, it's just better hidden and higher up and we're still rated pretty poorly at doing anything about it. No place to be proud of being British when it comes to corruption I'm afraid.

Secondly, as churches we must take seriously the issue because if we can demonstrate that Churches in Africa are leading the fight against corruption and genuinely have higher standards of integrity then truly they could become salt and light.


Jeremy on 25 November 2008 at 15:30 said...

It's true that corruption remains one of the biggest factors holding Africa back - not the only factor, but a more significant one than more PC commentators like to admit.

Unfortunately you're right, the church in Africa has failed to tackle this. Even as a Christian charity working with Christian partners, I've bumped up against this with work, with back-handers and even bare-faced stealing. It's so difficult to deal with, especially since the response is so often that the ends justify the means, and the bribes are paid.

There are no easy answers, but we never paid a bribe in Madagascar, in the 17 years that my parents worked there. Sometimes things didn't happen, sometimes we just had to wait months until the officials holding out on us just got bored, but if you can't get something done honestly then it shouldn't be done at all - not in God's name anyway!

Incidentally, I'm reading two interesting books on African development at the moment and comparing them - The Bottom Billion, and The White Man's Burden. Both very good, and very different in their conclusions.

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