“Cologne Memorandum” for a Different Development Policy
This is a guest post from a collective of scholars and practitioners of development aid as well as diplomats who have served in Africa. They met at a conference of the Bonn Appeal in Cologne, Germany, to discuss the state of development aid for Africa and the conclusions to draw from it. They agreed on a Cologne Memorandum that includes a list of demands plus explanations.
Among the authors are:
Dr. Karl Addicks, fmr MP Bundestag, Liberals, spokesman Development Cooperation. Klaus Thüsing, fmr MP, Bundestag SPD, 15 yrs. Country Dir., German Dev. Serv., in Africa
Volker Seitz, 17 yrs., Diplomat in African countries
Kurt Gerhardt, Bonn Appeal, fmr Country Dir., German Development Service (“DED”) in Niger
It is a more than 50-year-old mistake to believe we could make development policy for Africa. An error with fatal consequences. The rich and the powerful became richer. Poverty grew as a result of population growth. Most African countries became not more independent, but more dependent. A spiral like a drug ring: the more material is offered, the more lethargic and addicted the addicts become. But in this case, the offer does not come from greedy cartels, but from well-meaning governments. And it is not distributed by shady dealers, but by often very dedicated helpers on the ground. In short, a tragedy.
The truth is this: development in Africa can and must only be done by Africans. The African countries need to know what they want, and plan what they can. If they need support from other countries, they must say this and justify it. And if the reasons are good, they will get help. We will no longer regard them as natural “recipient countries” and us no longer as “donor countries.”
It therefore follows that:
- A massive increase in the level of government aid will not bring about a significant improvement in living conditions in African countries. Rather, large parts of the additional resources are expected to flow into the wrong channels and the exodus continues.
- Overall, development aid has not yet set in motion any fundamental and sustainable economic development in sub-Saharan Africa.
- On the contrary, state development aid has strengthened the dependency of the recipient countries and hampered the emergence of economic dynamism.
- Despite privileged trading conditions, there are scarcely any produced goods from sub-Saharan Africa on the world market.
- The current state development policy has assumed responsibilities that prevent development in Africa.
- Development aid has become a machinery that increasingly serves its self-preservation. Africa needs:
– Local and foreign entrepreneurs who build production plants in Africa. They are to be comprehensively supported, because the economic development of Africa is not possible without industrialization.
– Provide practical vocational training as a basis for sustainable economic development.
– Development aid that is provided to reliable organizations on site to promote African self initiative.
“Cologne Memorandum” — Explanations
Plea for a detoxified development aid policy
- If development aid had reached its goals, we would be discussing today how to phase it out. But the opposite is the case: it is to be increased. Even a Marshall Plan for Africa is called for.
- In spite of all the legitimate disappointments concerning the lack of successive development successes, it should not be forgotten that progress has been made in some areas (health, education, democratic co-determination, advancement of women, computer science and communication). NGOs, political foundations and church development services, among others, played a decisive role in this.
- Nevertheless, people’s poverty has remained at a high level for some years (about 50% of the population). States implode; ethnic and cultural conflicts increase in intensity in many places. All approaches to curbing state corruption—Africa’s main problem—have largely proved to be ineffective. State sovereignty is misunderstood and misused as a license to deceive and oppress.
- The industrialized countries of the North have a part in this misery: development aid has turned out to be a drug from which the spoiled consumers cannot get enough. Since the intended use of the financial transfer cannot be controlled (e.g. by parliament and judiciary in the recipient countries), it strengthens the illegal, partly criminal activities of democratically poorly legitimated governments that are more interested in privileges for themselves than in effective development policy for the benefit of their population. This complicity between parasitic governments and Western donor organizations is not ethically justifiable: taxpayers’ money is being burned! Development can only come from within.
- Therefore, we call for a detoxification of current development cooperation practices and a return to the real concern of development aid: to encourage people in poverty-stricken countries to activate their development potentials for a “good life,” that is, helping to overcome obstacles on the way to a self-determined life through their own work income.
- Efforts to understand and reconcile socio-cultural differences would have to be carried out with much greater seriousness.
- All practices in trade and economic relations with African countries that are a fatal “job killer,” especially the market-distorting practices of EU agricultural and fisheries policy (production subsidies), should be omitted. One should start with those production systems that are particularly harmful to Africa.
- Disincentives in the education system (brain drain) must be stopped. Instead, an increased focus on vocational education and training is recommended, taking into account the local conditions of adapted technologies. In particular, the teaching of MINT subjects, e-learning and “on-site” scholarships should be promoted, as well as the provision of universities through sustainable institution building.
- Cooperation with the very active African diaspora is to be encouraged. For example, incentives and assistance would make it possible for the professional staff practicing in Europe to return to their home countries.
- The addressees of development aid should not only be the governments of developing countries but also institutions that broaden the social spectrum of aid recipients: selected non-governmental organizations and entrepreneurial elements of the middle class Small and medium sized enterprises so far stifled by a parasitic patronage state. For governments that do not comply with the agreed standards of developmental cooperation (EZ criteria catalog) to the detriment of their populations, developmental transfers should be canceled, and with crass cases of corruption, for the duration of the presidential term. Unchecked “budgets” should be stopped more consistently. We oppose the current tendency to resume development assistance for the sake of foreign-policy reasons for countries that disqualify themselves due to human rights violations.
- More resources should, however, be made available for priority areas with a sustainable impact on the development potential of the labor force. There is an urgent need to promote family planning programs in order to limit the strong population growth that is destroying socioeconomic progress.
- Support for microcredits to women’s groups according to the criteria of the Grameen-Bank is to be increased.
- Stronger support for the German medium-sized companies with greater use of risk capital is required.
- For all aid measures, goal-oriented coordination among the donor countries must be demanded for improved consistency.