Dealing with African poverty

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Grace Ballor
Contributing Writer

The world as of late has been overwhelmingly dynamic. Uprisings, revolutions, government bankruptcies, deposition of dictators ­­­– no wonder I have trouble sleeping, much less staying abreast of international news.

It is easy to become so caught up in our geopolitical and economic concerns that we forget about other crises in the world. Because tribal wars in the Congo and disease in Nigeria don’t make headlines on major news networks, I rarely pause for a moment of compassion before returning to the anxieties of Greece in default or the death of Moammar Gadhafi. Yet while groups like the Christian Science Monitor tout statistics of Africa’s rise to middle-class status by 2060, much of Africa still experiences extreme poverty. I received an email from a friend in Kenya last week who informed me that her family had escaped the severe drought and food crisis by fleeing to the north. Though happy to hear of her safety, I sunk into guilt about my lack of regular concern for the more than four billion people on the planet whose survival remains a daily uncertainty.

But what is to be done? Groups like Young Heroes petition donations, promising that American cash can put an end to hunger and AIDS in Africa by buying meals and medicine for the starving and sick. While these organizations have saved lives, their success is contingent on income. Thus these programs are only temporary fixes for individuals, not long-term solutions to a continent-wide and centuries-long problem.

Food Security, a division of Global Philanthropy, takes a different approach. Their idea of philanthropy, to quote the grossly-overused phrase, is not “to give a man a fish to feed him for a day, but to teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Food Security aims to assist African peoples in developing agriculture and rural policies in ways that are both congruent with traditional methods of food growing and sustainable by the people without aid. There are several similar organizations that teach Africans to build durable homes and prevent against disease.

Africa is the least wealthy continent in terms of standard of living and GDP, and it certainly needs foreign aid. More than cash, though, Africans need the knowledge that can bring them out of poverty and create sustainable growth.  How to instill these skills is a challenge for even the most inventive minds.  But once acquired, this knowledge would enable Africa to move beyond its perpetual dependence on the rest of the world which gives cash one day but then all-too-easily forgets about the plight of the “Dark Continent” on the next.

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