Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Darker Than Shade

France will do whatever it needs to do for its own sake, and when those coincide with ours, 'tant mieux' [even better] as the French people say. But our main responsibility as leaders, as citizens, is what we need to do to grow our own countries.

We can no longer continue to make policy for ourselves — in our country, in our region, in our continent — on the basis of whatever support that the Western world or France or the European Union can give us. It has not worked, and it will not work.
Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana
This, according to NPR, is the Ghanaian President "throwing shade" at foreign aid. I'm not sure I agree. After all, shade, in this context, according to Merriam-Webster "is a subtle, sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone—sometimes verbal, and sometimes not." I don't know that I see anything approaching contempt for, or disgust with, the concept of foreign aid. That description, I think, it better reserved for some of the social media crowing about President Akufo-Addo's statement. NPR goes on to say:
Instead, [President Akufo-Addo] encouraged African leaders to focus on good governance, accountability and diversity to promote trade. With its wealth of natural resources, the continent should be a donor, not a recipient, he said.
I think that part of the reason why so many Africans saw President Akufo-Addo's statement as a way of sticking it to France is that sub-Saharan Africa has a worldwide reputation as a horror show; dirt-poor on a good day, and crammed to the rafters with strongman dictators who busy themselves with looting their nations and scheming to stay in power so they can loot some more. Even Amnesty International's recent report on abuses of migrants bound for Europe excoriates the EU, but doesn't bother castigating the African governments of the nations that the migrants are do desperate to get out of. It reminds me of President Bush's invocation of "the soft bigotry of low expectations." Of course Africa needs all the foreign aid it can get - and while we're at it, Europe should take all the migrants who come, because no-one would and to stay in such a hellhole. And, of course, Africa can't be expected to stop being a hellhole.

But, on its face, President Akufo-Addo's statement doesn't seem to be one of accusing France, or other nations, of deliberately fostering African dependency. You can easily read his statement as "Dude. It's been 60 freaking years. Why are we still beggars after all this time?" If that's throwing shade on anyone, it's governments in Africa, Ghana included.

NPR's mischaracterization of President Akufo-Addo's statement is simply playing into another stereotype of Africa - the bitter person who understands that they dependent on others, but too proud to take that with good grace. It's no better than any of the other stereotypes.

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