Why Western Visions of Utopia are Killing Africans

William Easterly writing in Foreign Policy asks: What is utopianism? and goes on to answer that ‘it is promising more than you can deliver. It is seeing an easy and sudden answer to long-standing, complex problems. It is trying to solve everything at once through an administrative apparatus headed by “world leaders.” It places too much faith in altruistic cooperation and underestimates self-seeking behaviour and conflict. It is expecting great things from schemes designed at the top, but doing nothing to solve the bigger problems at the bottom.’ This is the model proposed by the usual idea-challenged and arrogant rock stars alongside their rock star economist partners such as Jeffrey Sachs; all possessed of a feverish utopianism that would have Africans look to them for the solutions to poverty and war. Once again, African Bullets & Honey is home to an anti-Western aid screed. The reason I am so taken with this issue if I may just explain is that I believe fighting the aid industry in its many forms is one of the great moral crusades of our time. Read more of William Easterly’s piece here.


About bulletsandhoney
I read my first book when I was three, then my second one a few weeks later. It has carried on this way for decades with only temporary distractions of eating, fighting, loving, heartbreak and other such irrelevant biographical details.

10 Responses to Why Western Visions of Utopia are Killing Africans

  1. stonelifter says:

    good article. the attitude of throw more money at the problem and it will be fixed is rather naive thinking.

  2. Arnie says:

    You & stonelifter make good points. We need more than that though. Fight Bono and his gang, but do also propose an alternative! Are you for the status quo? Isn’t some of the points Sachs make worth supporting (e.g. cancellation of debt)?

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is a great article and offcourse one that requires many facets to thinking.

    I for one don’t see the problem lying with Bono and all the other rockstars out there who are in way trying to do their part in alleviating the human problems so prevalent.

    I think though the whole problem as might as it is complex can actually be looked at very simply.

    For instance when it comes to some individual problems we face in our lives from drug addictions to relationship problems and despite all the support, advice and interventions of well meaning family and friends the decision to succumb or transcend lies squarely at the one affected’s feet.

    The problem with the world’s power is going to take them to solve it.
    For instance in Kenya it is obvious we are still suckers for punishment hence the current trend of poverty will go on unabated until one day we will get sick and tired of the way things have become for us.

    History repeats itself all the time.
    It took union movements and social democracy groups to make America the kind of nation it was.

    It was by no mercy of some govt, but the American people got sick and tired of living like paupers amidst afew kings in that time.
    They stood up and fought back the result is this nation of opportunity they have.

    The same happened in Europe.

    The same happened to India and China when they chose to be masters of their own fate and not wait upon the western world’s masters to get over their racial hysterias currently both nations are not only economic contenders but have military might to back it up that is the only reason they can now sit on the same table with the masters and be treated like fellow men.

    Money is indeed an instant reformer, but the place where the world is in today goes to a more profound place that requires attitude adjustment perhaps a reinvention of nationalism and good old guts.


  4. paul says:

    I have said before that if Jeffrey Sachs were flying around the world with a respected African business person instead of Angelina Jolie, I would think differently of him.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Its one thing to bash Mr. Sacks but what exactly have African governments done to fix the issues other than in most cases made the situation worse? At least he cares and is trying something regardless of the minor positive changes he makes. What have those that have the ability to make the biggest change done? Nothing, in fact they are actively working to push their fellow Africans into deeper misery and poverty.

    Speak of pulling the speck in your bothers eye..

  6. MMK says:

    Thanks for the comments and I do appreciate the challenge of why Sachs is being ‘bashed’. It is not because governments in Africa have been doing a great job, quite the contrary. And one of the reasons is the Sachs of the world who maintain that directing ever larger sums of money to the same bloody hands, that then rob it or use it to do some more harm, will help most Africans. The consistent point in many of these posts is the desire to not see aid money propping up leaders who then have a breather from their people’s pressure or to prop up a corrupt, self serving aid industry. I could not care less what jeffrey sachs did with his time if he was not at the cutting edge of a bankrupt and destructive system that has if anything deepened poverty in Africa. There are some NGOs out there that are doing a good job, but they pale in significance when compared to the majority.


  7. paul says:

    Sachs’ heart may be in the right place, but he firmly believes in the ability of the “state” to solve any and all problems with money. He firmly believes that economic problems must be solved from the top down, not the bottom up.

    This (and the general attitude of NGOs and the aid industry) strikes me as annoyingly paternalistic. Sachs is silent about the potential of the African middle class, and basically espouses grand socialist schemes.

    Western help should come in the form of mutually beneficial capitalism, through fair trade, business development, and mentoring.

    Indian economic development is based on western outsourcing, why can’t the same thing happen in Kenya or Nigeria? China is battling Taiwan and Malaysia for western textile business, why not Ghana or the Congo? Try to find these questions in Sachs economic analysis.

    I’m optimistic about the ability of Africans (like Martin?) to show men like Sachs that they are wrong.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Sachs, NGOs and western foreign Aid are contributors to Africa’s economic problems; however, they are not by a long short the principle contributors. I am tickled by the intellectual tirades and energy lavished on them. The notion that stopping the foreign aid to Africa will force African despots into actions is laughable. Can anyone say Mugabe. This exercise in aid bashing while amusing fails completely to addresses the fundamental social issues that keeps maniacs like Mugabe in power, that issue my learned friends is not western foreign aid.

  9. jenbrea says:

    I just wanted to chime in and say I completely agree with the sentiment here. There is this sense that the West can crusade into any “primitive” or “backwards” place and be its saviors. No matter how many times we fail, and no matter how many people we colonize, the myth persists.

    I think Africa’s greatest tragedy and Europe’s greatest stroke of good luck was history. Europe had time to build states and large-scale societies (albeit, after several hundred very bloody years). It evolved on its own terms. Africa had the British, French, Belgian, Portuguese, German, Dutch empires.


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