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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 March, 2005, 12:41 GMT
African issues: Your views
We discussed the problem of HIV/Aids in Africa and whether global aid is failing to help the world's poor with Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of South Africa's opposition Inkatha Freedom Party.


Nearly 90 million Africans could be infected by the HIV virus in the next 20 years if more is not done to combat the epidemic, the UN has warned.

The UN recommends a committed campaign against HIV/Aids - and $200bn (105bn) of investment - to stem its spread, which would require concentrated aid effort on the part of donors.

But international aid agencies claim global aid is failing to help the world's poor.

Oxfam and ActionAid accuse the wealthiest nations of a "self-serving and hypocritical" approach to aid.

To discuss these issues we were joined by Mangosuthu Buthelezi, leader of South Africa's opposition Inkatha Freedom Party, who as a Zulu prince, is also a strong advocate of traditional African culture.

Dr Buthelezi has lost his son and daughter to Aids, and like Nelson Mandela has spoken openly about his personal experience in an effort to break the stigma that surrounds the disease.

What should be done to stem spread of HIV/Aids in Africa? Should African leaders do more to raise Aids awareness? Should the international aid system be reformed? Do you agree with the findings in the Oxfam and ActionAid report? And traditional African culture - is it in danger of being eroded?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

It might be true that you cannot solve the problem of poverty by throwing money at it, but you can certain fight a disease this way! How else did we manage to eradicate small pox? We've done it before, and we can do it again! HIV is a very dangerous disease, and Africa's distance from the world won't protect us anymore. Eventually the HIV menace become worse in Western countries as the numbers of Africans with HIV explode in number. Please, we need to spend a lot more than we are on this issue! Not just for their sakes, but for every human being.
Mark, Brisbane, Australia

We are living off them, not the other way around
Katherine, London, UK
It is convenient to blame corruption for all Africa's problems. It is also wrong. In the last 30 years, for every 1 we have given to Africa we have taken 17, in the form of interest of debt repayments, unfair trade barriers and other such factors (figures from Christian Aid). We are living off them, not the other way around.
Katherine, London, UK

I am now in my sixties and it seems that I have been contributing to some crises or other in Africa since I could read. I have been to central and southern Africa several times and have spoken to numerous people as to how they see themselves. Most say that until corruption among the top in their society is eliminated most of the west's contributions go to making the rich richer with very modest improvements to the many. The only solution I see is that the charities, aid organisations etc keep control of the purse strings - unfortunately charities are not immune from corruption. Africa needs to help itself before the West's efforts will make a difference.
Ray, Hartlepool, UK

The main problem that one needs to consider is the fact that Africa is suffering serious poverty. The more economically developed countries haven't dropped the debt which is quite appalling. How can you expect the people to pay the debt when they barely have the money for basic requirements, food, water and shelter. Aids is seen as a disgrace in certain parts of Africa and people are so ashamed that they won't even go to the doctor about it. Africa needs so much help, look at the tsunami appeal how much money was raised half of which won't even reach the people. Africa has been in this way for so many years and the 'fat cats' of the world are refusing to lift a finger to help these people who are living in hell. Poverty is the main cause of Africa's problems and unless Africa can become economically sufficient this vicious cycle will continue for generations to come.
Geena, Manchester, UK

I have read all the comments and they do seem funny as Africa is being referred to like as if it's one country and not a continent. There are 53 countries in the continent and so cannot have the same problems as the other. Ignorance is not an excuse in this information age.
Chi-Chi, an African in London

Aids affects the whole social spectrum and it is time that the problem is treated as such
Jason Robinson, Dublin,Ireland
Mass funding and aid from both donor countries and African nations should be put into stopping the spread of Aids. Aids affects the whole social spectrum and it is time that the problem is treated as such. The West and its leaders, should stop the idle talk and work with Africa to curb this problem. And that's not neglecting the need for the West to help Africa with infrastructure in general and to establish proper democratic structures. The time to work as a global community is now. Africa is the place to start.
Jason Robinson, Dublin,Ireland

The poverty in Africa will never be solved by just giving aid. Africa needs to fight bad leadership and corruption. African governments need to create incentives for innovation and reliability, and not rely totally on imported goods. They also need to form a strong common market within the continent to serve their business people. But the most important thing to do is to create an environment of stability.
Mike Aziz, Vancouver, Canada

Having lived for many years in Kwa-Zulu Natal, and due to return there eventually, I share the frustrations of many in seeing close at hand just how devastating the plague of Aids has become. I have seen the safe-sex/condom campaigns, and the many brave people doing what they can to assist in the distribution of ARVs. But in my opinion the media is just not doing its part - the TV, film and pop music industry still push the glamorous image of young sexy happy kids in miniscule clothing, gyrating to ear-splitting music and in short forgetting all their cares! How can any campaign succeed against this onslaught? The whole developing world is besotted with US pop culture and therein lies the failure of African governments to combat the growing incidence of HIV transmission amongst its youth.
Rosalind Baillie-Sparkes, Bogor, Indonesia

It's very simple, we should put our effort on promoting use of condoms. The policy promoted by USA and Catholic Church (abstinence) simply doesn't work and is dangerous
Rafael, London

Let's hope that the UN doesn't handle the HIV/Aids programme like the, "Oil for food programme" The answer is with the pharmaceutical companies. I suspect they don't want to find a "magic bullet". Why should they? They're their making billions. Likewise there will never be an end to wars, wars are big business. Money alone will not combat Africa's problem. In my view, most of the world's problems are driven and kept alive by the greed for money.
Allan, Delta, BC. Canada.

I know that a lot of the time, when western countries offer financial aid, there are restrictions limiting the spending of that money to businesses which come from the donor country. This is seen very often in disaster response situations such as the recent tsunami crisis. Is there much of these spending limitations on monetary contributions to the war on Aids?
Chris Madsen, Vancouver, Canada

System reform is needed. The money that goes to Africa to fight Aids is used by the leaders of African nations for their own greed and not for the people. The western world need to have less trade barriers with Africa, and not just give money blindly, all that brings is more debt. Money must also be spent on educating people about Aids, how easy it can spread, and about using protection.

In the present, aid is given, corruption on the recipient's and donor's part wastes the money and puts the African nations into debt while the western corporations and nations get richer, and the people get cheated.
Alex, Eritrean in USA

In terms of Aids, I worry that world thinks it is a Third world or developing country disease
Douglas Davies, South Africa
I have always had respect for Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. He has often said what needed to be said regardless of what others thought or how they would criticise him. In terms of Aids, I worry that world thinks it is a Third world or developing country disease, similar to the way it was viewed as a "gay" disease. We found out the hard way that that was not true, and I believe we will find out the hard way that this disease affects all of us, no matter what our creed, religion or nationality may be.

It's interesting to note that it is not an African or South American or even Far East country that has the highest rate of infections at the moment. It is a European country. Studies also show that it is the wealthy, well-educated groups that are being infected at a higher rate than the poorer groups. The mentality of "it couldn't and won't happen to me" seems to pervade these groups, not unlike the developed world. I promise you, it is not "somebody else's problem".
Douglas Davies, Johannesburg, South Africa

This is as a direct result of greedy drug manufactures who refuse to allow a large proportion of drugs that will aid the people of Africa. Why should we let it get to this state? The pockets of those wicked chairmen/executives who earn millions from drugs could simply provide Africa with enough to limit the spread of the disease.
Peter, London

How is more of the West's money going to solve the problems of Aids in Africa when all the money in the world has not solved the problem at home? Only individuals acting responsibly got it under control here. Promiscuity and unsafe sexual practices promote the disease. Acting responsibly in these areas doesn't cost a dime, and it works! The Pope irresponsibly forbids condoms as a means of disease prevention and manages to get his message across Africa, for far less than the UN's suggested 200 billion dollars. Why aren't the international aid agencies challenging the Catholic church? Simple, the Pope doesn't listen to them. Here is my second question: How long do you think you can unfairly disparage the wealthiest nations and beat them with the guilt stick, while they are actually helping Africa with quite a bit of money, before they too stop listening?
Steve Mac, Boston MA USA

While the West is being pressurised to do more for Africa and Aids what responsibilities will the Africans take for example not to have so many children and to reduce the number of partners and to practice safe sex. Why should we pay for other people's irresponsibility?
Maxell Rodgers, UK

We will never win any war on Aids when aid is abused. The aid which is meant for the marginalised never gets to the intended people in Africa. Instead the money is used to buy expensive cars, pay exorbitant salaries. Corruption in Zimbabwe has even spread to the aid agencies. That is why they cry for more Aid because the little they are getting is not enough for their state of the art breakfast meetings in the five star hotels. In the rural Zimbabwe there are no ambulances to ferry the sick to hospitals but the cars that you see on the road say it all. Can aid be used to buy such luxury cars instead of ambulances and medicine? I have heard of Oxfam but I have never heard of any tangible contribution they have made to my land.
Resai, Harare, Zimbabwe

We give with one hand but take away with the other
Katherine, London, UK
We give with one hand but take away with the other. There is little point poring in aid money if there is no mechanism for poop nations to eventually support themselves - whilst we have astonishingly unfair trade rules in place this can never happen. We demand that developing countries open their markets to us as conditions to aid, but keep up our own trade barriers and agricultural subsidies. We keep the poor poor and ourselves rich whilst professing otherwise. Is this simply stupidity?
Katherine, London, UK

How about funding health centres across Africa, free to recipients and independent from governments, funding coming from mutual aid to Africa. Unless the African nations join together and fight this together, there will be nothing to fight over soon.
C Robinson, Cornwall

If I were a controller of an aid organization for African nations, I'd never have consulted the national government of the countries busy in useless civil wars, draining their economy and manipulated with corruption. But global aid should be provided purely as aid and not as loans. Education can only throw light on the Dark Continent wrapped in poverty, diseases like Aids and several other cultural superstitions.

Development must simultaneously take place in all levels, child or adult. Aids awareness knowledge should reach deep into Africa and not just on the urban tops of few African nations.
Shib SenChaudhury, Calcutta, India

Oxfam is dead right. Poor aid recipient countries have turned it into the core of their development strategy instead of taking Aid as a supplement. Dictators take the heavy donor support as approval of their poor and corrupt management. Developing countries must be required to formulate their own local development strategy that can then be supplemented by external support.

Indeed it may be appropriate to hold a referendum to approve the major aid so all citizens know what is going on instead of donors smuggling in billions of dollars of aid/loans behind the people's back - enslaving future generations through unscrupulous and corrupt leaders of today.
Patrick Abal, New York

Personally it is my belief that before aid is doled out these leaders should be given lessons in management and accountability
Mmabatho, Gaborone

By and large our governments have failed to be accountable. Huge sums have poured into some countries but there is little to show for it. Personally it is my belief that before aid is doled out these leaders should be given lessons in management and accountability; similar to the workshops which are carried out for government and private sector employees.

Drastic measures should be taken, after all, are we not the ones who are crying that we are being sidelined in favour of western Europe and parts of Asia? Aid givers should keep tabs on the money they give out; after all it comes from the pockets of their taxpayers. Recipients on the other hand should use the funds according to strict guidelines, and should be subjected to regular audits by reputable firms. Otherwise the present system is as good as throwing resources into a bonfire.

I know this all sounds very paternalistic, but many more people would benefit this way, the alternative is having the largest portion of the aid monies disappearing into the pockets and hemlines of a handful of individuals who do not have the interests of the people at heart.
Mmabatho, Gaborone

Of course African countries should have a greater say. Aid recipients do know what would be good for them, what they need, therefore it would be necessary for aid agencies to consult with them. Involving them into planning and decision-making would make efforts much more effective. Concerning culture I think all cultures are possible victims of globalisation: in a digital era there is less time to take care of our heritage, our traditions. Shame on us.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary

Why is it always the countries that have oil should be helped whereas as the very same time there very other poor countries in Africa are ignored? I think it's time to really be humane in helping people who need it.
Kaveh, Montreal, Canada

With the current aid system the donors are the one benefiting
Kapinga Ntumba, Zimbabwe
I totally agree with the findings in the Oxfam and ActionAid report. If the wealthiest nations are really willing to help the African continent come out of poverty, they must begin by reforming the international aid system, as with the current system the donors are the one benefiting.

The donors can't keep on showing off campaigning against poverty while on the other hand they are the one who back the corrupted leaders to remain in power. Why giving the same corrupted regime a greater control in how the donor money should be spent when they are the root cause of our misery? I think to set up a joint commission where the donors also have an opportunity to monitor how their money is spent is the best solution.
Kapinga Ntumba, Harare, Zimbabwe

In as much as I agree with the conclusions drawn by Oxfam and ActionAid, I don't think they are any different. If you go to places where they have a presence on the ground, their workers are well to do and sometimes economically miles away from those their are helping. However we need to ask ourselves why we always going cup in hand begging, in the midst of plenty?

Our leaders spend our wealth on their fantasies leaving the masses starving. Swaziland is a case in point and depicts this very well. Aid and Donor agencies make a lot of noise about aid to Africa, spending nearly half of the money on their own salaries etc and all kinds of consultants. Both sides exploit the poor masses.
John Mensah, UK

It is sad that Africa is in this sad stage. Another example of how you will eventually suffer if you lost your culture. Get rid of all aid if you really want to solve the problem. There will be no more incentive to corrupt. Yes, initially there will be suffering but I am sure the people of Africa will cope. I am sure they will recover their traditional culture and learn how to share like how their ancestor has done for thousand of years.
Lim Soon Huat, Singapore

Yes I do agree with the findings and I think Africans should have greater control in disbursement of the funds.
Ntem Obed, Accra, Ghana

If western countries really want to help the developing world they should end their agricultural subsides and eliminates their tariffs. In the US sugar prices are three times higher then the world price due to tariffs, with the effect keeping sugar for the developing world out. This will help them far more then handouts, and will help them develop sustainable economies.
Jason, Minneapolis, USA

Why talk about "Aid" - it's a double-faced loan!
Jean-Paul Muana, UK
First, the rich nations are in business with Africa, so they must make money in any case. That's the reason why the World Bank, the Paris Club and many more come into Africa. If there was no profit they wouldn't be there at all. So why talk about "Aid" - it's a double-faced loan! Secondly, in order to make more money, the rich nations are supporting indirectly the corrupt governments in Africa with their destructive policies; this is meant to stop any positive development that would lead to a financial independence.

Thirdly, African governments must learn on how to negotiate money in their favour as they often go blind with the rich nations' financial institutions, leaving them in high debts. Finally, Africans must learn to live with what they have with ambitions to develop and produce more for all! This mentality will eliminate corruption and promote a positive development.
Jean-Paul Muana, Congolese in UK

He who pays the piper dictates the tune. All depends on sincerity in the pursuit of poverty reduction by wealthy nations.
Anthony Arojojoye, Lagos, Nigeria

I accept some governments in African countries are corrupt but the question citizens of first world countries and other good minded people of the world do not ask is whether the so-called "aid" given to Third world countries is not a grand conspiracy to continuously tie them down to their predicament, Oxfam and ActionAid have partly confirmed this.

People also need to read books such as "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" the author describes how as a highly paid professional(employed by a national agency in his country), he helped cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then take over their economies.
Oke, UK

Oxfam's criticisms are misdirected. How do they explain the hugely poor outcomes of the tens of billions of dollars poured into Africa over the last 40 years? Oxfam needs to work with African leaders to hold them to account for their mismanagement practices. Perhaps African nations could learn from the Asian nations and their success stories over the last 40 years.
Janet, Edmonton, Canada

We can effect changes in the pattern and direction of aid
Franklin Kutuadu, Canada
Poor African Countries cannot have control on how donor money is spent since it is determined by the governments of the developed nations. However, we can effect changes in the pattern and direction of aid. If we choose not to accept tied aid which creates an artificial market for surplus products from the developed countries such as tied food aid which is a disincentive to local food production then the developed world would then let us determine the direction of aid instead of them doing that for us.

But we must also put in place mechanisms to ensure the judicious use of aid and provide accountability to our people and the donor community. Sometimes we are told it is because of the issues of accountability that is why aid is tied.
Franklin Kutuadu, Guelph, Canada

The international aid system is long overdue for reform. The findings by Oxfam and ActionAid are correct but another reason why wealthiest nations are reluctant, is because the intended aid does not serve the purpose for which it is meant for. Corruption is the greatest impediment against aid. There should be a degree of transparent honesty in administering aid by countries receiving it.

African countries should have greater control in spending the donor money because they know best what their pressing needs are. Also, traditional African culture is at the brink of extinction. If effort is not made by African countries to preserve their culture now, it would be too late as western culture is eating deep into the fabric of traditional African culture.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

Progress that demands destruction of traditional survival systems leaves a huge gap which fuels survival corruption. If Africa is eluded by World Trade, at least allow Africans to trade amongst themselves, then there will be no need for aid and progress will happen due to economic and market forces.
Sonny, Lagos, Nigeria

African leaders must behave and be accountable to their people. To have 15 brand new BMWs for 15 wives is indeed ridiculous and irresponsible especially if the payment for the vehicles come from international aid. Unbelievable and crazy!
Kamarudin, Malaysia

Some of Africa's most deserving recipients of aid are governed by some of the most ruthless and corrupt governments on the planet. Surely we need to have less focus on aid and more focus on encouraging good transparent leadership?
Lawrence Masterson, Bath

One has to ask how long the international community is expected to support an entire continent?
Rob G, Kansas City, USA
While it is clear that international aid for Africa is insufficient given their plight, I don't believe that it's because people don't care. It's easy for aid agencies like Oxfam to criticize the developed world in an effort to "guilt" them into making larger donations, however one has to ask how long the international community is expected to support an entire continent?

Reform is needed. Not of the donor nations, but the rather within receiving nations. Civil war, dictatorships and corruption are rampant across the continent, with several exceptions. Until Africans can learn to live together, high levels of international aid only fuel the problem and give them more to fight over.
Rob G, Kansas City, USA

To Rob G, Kansas City: The international community is not, and has never, supported Africa, either a part or the whole. Do you know that Africans living in Europe, many of them doing those societies' most menial jobs, send back more in remittances to their families in Africa than the aggregate of international aid to the continent? (And so it should be - people should be expected to take responsibility for improving their own lives and the lives of their loved ones.)

Do you know that the flow of money from Africa to the "international community" is greater than the flow from the "international community" to Africa? I fully concur with your basic argument re the necessity for good governance, but we should not muddy the waters with unsubstantiated statements.
Narda, Jamaican studying in London

Yes I agree that countries should have greater control of aid, but how do you stop the corruption by those in power? There has always been a culture in Africa to welcome strangers and community/tribal help for all. How can we bring that back and get rid of the "first nations" corrupt systems?
Ros Crawford, Pen Y Garnedd, Powys Wales

Look at the way food aid supplied by the UN's WFP has eroded traditional coping strategies to drought and food insecurity. The overhead costs used to transport relief food to Africa supersede amount necessary to develop the infrastructure needed to reduce poverty and hunger by 90%. Look at the amount spent in hiring cargo aircrafts to transport the food, to build the airstrips and to buy four-wheel vehicles.
Thomas Nyambane, Nairobi, Kenya

Is traditional African culture really the answer to starvation and corrupt governments? Maybe traditions need to be changed in the name of progress? The African nations should not have greater control in how the money is spent until they prove that they will spend it wisely.
Dwayne Chastain, West Jefferson, Ohio




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