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Letters: A Response to Guernica’s Interview With Dambisa Moyo

April 4, 2009

[I] read your interview with Dambisa Moyo… haven’t read the book yet, but she is right on the button with her comments.

We run a Foundation in Sweden – not aid or charitable in the accepted sense – one designed only to give some Africans an opportunity at some industrial development of the type that matters.

Mostly we are old “middle class” engineers who have worked within the western industrial world for a long time – some of us have been to Africa often enough to have seen the reality she describes so well – and maybe a few more unpalatable truths she doesn’t dwell on. Our dealings with established aid organisations also confirm the way she describes them – although we would be less diplomatic in our own description.

After a long battle to get some sort of support ourselves – we now have the Swedish government willing to support us in bringing some Africans here to learn the manufacturing processes needed to manufacture Biomass fuelled “town scale” electric generating plants and Biomass fuelled tractors. We merely provide the equipment and factory design and support – a western “microventure” organisation and African banks providing local levels of capital needed for local size industries paying local labour rates.

Another project we are assisting an American Foundation with involves Africa adding more value steps to cotton. One could almost cringe when realising their own attempts to do this decades ago were destroyed when their fledgling industries had to compete with charities handing out shiploads of free clothing donated by the west. Next time you throw your old clothes in a charity bin, make sure it is for your own poor. Decades of that have helped put 3 million African cotton growers below the poverty line and a few million more out of work – and starve many children.

I have always been appalled seeing the most resource rich continent on the planet having to export its raw commodities with literally no value added… simply because the opportunity to add value through industrial process has been denied them. We agree with Dambisa Moyo totally that there is no point at all in educating girls (or boys), merely to be seen to be politically correct, when they have nowhere to go after that. All should be educated – but education is like democracy – a result of economic development driven by a few – not a cause.

Another argument for another time – but our own history shows that industrial development did not come from the school system – more the school system was a result of economic/industrial development creating the demand for educated people – and the wealth needed to do it.

Wonderful continent Africa – but one full of “catch 22” situations which perpetuate poverty – glamour driven aid being the most insane of all.

Nice to see someone explain it so well… we all look forward to reading her book. Congratulations for interviewing one who is presenting a simple truth – that it is seen as provocative merely confirms the very truths she makes.

Regards

Frank Williams

IFA Foundation

Sweden

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