The new, kinder, gentler BTL doesn’t just point out the manifest and myriad ways the world sucks.
He offers solutions:
Did you know that someone dies of malaria every 60 seconds? You may do, if you’ve seen one of the latest Christian Aid posters picturing an African girl staring fearfully at the camera, or a young boy lying on what seems to be his deathbed. They send a powerful Christmas message: while we celebrate in comfort, children are dying for want of a £3 mosquito net. And we could change this, if only we chose to help.
What these adverts don’t tell you, though, is the remarkable extent to which we are helping – and, more importantly, the way in which Africans are helping themselves. Malaria, mankind’s biggest killer, is now retreating faster than at any time since records began.
Earlier this month, the United Nations announced that malaria’s global death toll has more than halved since the turn of the century, saving six million lives. It’s the greatest success story of modern times, yet no one seems interested in telling it.
Save the Children’s winter appeal features a sad-looking boy from Congo and warns that “thousands of children like Kabeya will wake up sick with hunger” this Christmas.
This is quite true, but the world over, malnutrition rates stand at an all-time low and are falling fast. The stunning truth about Congo is that it has almost halved its extreme poverty rate in 10 years. In fact, across the world, poverty rates and child mortality rates have halved since 1990.
Back then, only 52 per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa went to primary school. Now, 80 per cent do – and the number is rising.
This has been a landmark year for Africa. It’s the first year in history, for example, that no wild polio cases have been reported in the continent; a disease that used to strike and often paralyse 350,000 children a year is now almost extinct. Aids infections have halved over the past 15 years. The recent eradication of Ebola in Sierra Leone is only the latest triumph in Africa’s war against the kinds of diseases that have kept so many countries on their knees for so long.
How, you ask?
While overseas support has been crucial and highly effective in the struggle, the strongest force pushing back disease in the continent is capitalism; trade still brings in far more money than aid. Indoor smoke, dirty water and hunger still kill more Africans than malaria, so when a villager can afford rudimentary sanitation and healthcare, the effect on disease is profound.
A recent African Union conference set a two-year deadline to turn the whole continent into a free-trade area. This is no mere fantasy: since the beginning of the century, the value of trade between African countries has risen five times over; mobile phones are now as common in Nigeria and South Africa as they are in Britain.
Charities, though, by their nature, don’t tend to spend too much time spreading good news.
As any fundraiser will tell you, the surest way of raising money is to tell tales of poverty, helplessness and desperation. Donating money to good malaria charities remains a wonderfully efficient way to save lives, so these harrowing advertising campaigns do serve a noble purpose. But they risk perpetuating the damaging stereotype of Africans living in squalor, and give a misleading impression about the true state of the world.
Bill Gates’s charitable foundation has played a full role in the battle against malaria. It does not rely on pulling heartstrings to gain support, so he is free of any need to spin a tale of Africa in meltdown. Instead, he talks about “mind-blowing” progress being made before our eyes. On current trends, he says, there will be almost no poor countries left within 20 years.
If this sounds like a wild exaggeration, it shouldn’t: all the data is pointing in this direction.
This is a story that is not told very often, but it is none the less the story of our age: globalisation is spreading ideas, medicine and wealth, forcing down inequality and bringing the world closer together.
With enough capitalism, poverty might become history after all.
The liberal mind reels. Capitalism is supposed to be the enslaver of the masses, not their liberator. They read it in Dickens. How do they square the reality of the world with their warped view of it? (Spoiler alert: they don’t even try.)
Two problems, however.
One is Africa itself:
“Corruption creates and increases poverty and exclusion. While corrupt individuals with political power enjoy a lavish life, millions of Africans are deprived of their basic needs like food, health, education, housing, access to clean water and sanitation,” said José Ugaz, chair of Transparency International, in a statement.
The NGO estimates that around 75 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have paid a bribe in the past year. The poor fare the worst — they are twice as likely as the richest in the region to have had to make payoffs according to the report.
“This might be because poor people feel powerless to stand up against a corrupt official, or because rich people use their connections to avoid paying such bribes,” says Coralie Pring, corruption surveys research coordinator at Transparency International.
Nearly one in five Africans paid bribes to obtain official documents, and access to medical care is sometimes negotiated through an unofficial fee, gift or favor.
The survey, which polled over 43,000 people in 28 Sub-Saharan countries, also found that half or more of those who paid bribes did so multiple times a year.
“Corruption is the single biggest threat to Africa’s growth,” says Ali Mufuruki, CEO of Tanzania’s Infotech Investment Group and member of the International Monetary Fund’s Group on sub-Saharan Africa.
“The solution lies in good, ethical leadership, strong and enforceable laws against corruption, severe sanctions for corruption crimes underpinned by a national culture of promoting ethics from family to national level, “he adds.
Good luck with that.
The other problem Africa faces, besides Africa, is the rest of the world. The ROW equates free trade and capitalism with rape and child molestation—but then, given the proclivities of UN “piecekeeping” forces, what do they not equate with rape and child molestation? I didn’t follow the most recent of the climate circle-jerks in Paris, but the striped-pant crowd couldn’t have been too keen on the nose-ring crowd widening their carbon footprint. Tell me I’m wrong. The save-the-whalers think of the six million lives saved and swoon. So many more mouths to feed! So many more consumers! Where’s Margaret Sanger now that we really need her?
The thing about going back to simpler times is that those times had no sanitation, no anesthesia, no cell phones, no YouTube. Our recent generations must be unique in the history of the world to fear and curse progress. Perhaps that’s because we have made such astounding progress in the last fifty years, that our minds are overwhelmed. Or perhaps there’s something baser, nastier at work. Some of us, anyway, would appear to prefer impoverished Africans, even millions of dead Africans.
I, for one, do not. I believe that black lives matter.