An African Perspective On Foreign Aid
While networking on Facebook, I inadvertently came across a young man in Africa. I got chatting to 17-year-old Omar Sowe, who lives in The Gambia. He seemed overjoyed to have made a friend. Omar lives with his sick elderly grandmother, who he cares for, and his 12-year-old sister. He walks to see a friend and use their internet for Facebook.
Omar and his sister had to drop out of school a few years ago for financial reasons after their parents were tragically killed in a car crash. Speaking exclusively to Kipper Central, he endorsed UKIP ideas on foreign aid. I have corrected his spelling and added punctuation to make his comments easier to read.
I think that educating people like Sowe would be a worthwhile cause to allocate foreign aid spending to. I remarked to him that our Government just throw money at poor countries and much of it disappears into the pockets of corrupt leaders and politicians.
Omar replied “What you have said is true.”
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I explained our Trade Not Aid approach by commenting “What UKIP would like to do, if we can ever get in power, is enable trade in countries like yours. Handouts might help in the short term, but don’t help people support themselves long term. If we can target foreign aid to establish businesses, people like you would be able to earn your own money.”
My West African friend responded “That’s right, I agree with you.” He added “We are in need of help as we live in a hard condition of life.”
I asked him “Would you like to work or train for work?”
“Indeed I will like to get back to school right now and be good boy in life time. I help my family and others in need. I am so sad and unhappy with my family.”
I told Omar about last year’s UKIP policy to build a Naval Ocean-going Surgical Hospital. “This hospital ship would cruise the world’s seas delivering medical aid wherever it’s needed. It would have helicopters and vehicles, so it would be able to bring people aboard from inland countries.” I asked him if he thinks this would be helpful to people in countries like his.
Sowe replied “Yes, sure that would be so much help. If my family and country could be part of that help it would be of a blessings.”
He has shown me photographs of his house and it is merely a humble hovel, which they are only able to live in because their landlord, who has known Omar’s grandmother for a long time, is being extremely patient. Sowe believes that he and his sister will be evicted upon their grandmother’s death.
Before I saw these pictures of their home, I asked Omar if they have plumbing or electricity. He told me that there are utilities in Gambia, but not where he lives. In a country that has a thriving tourist industry with proper hotels, I find this inequality disgusting!
“Am not having anything. We are living in Africa and life here never favour us the poor. Our government here only tells us lies and cheat us” he informed me. This is why UKIP decries foreign aid being payed to countries’ leaders.
My Gambian interviewee used to earn a meagre income by gathering firewood from a forest and selling it, but this endeavour has since been prohibited.
I enquired “Do you think it would be good to train you to be a plumber for example? Maybe you could install running water at home as well as earn a living installing and repairing plumbing for other people? Or an electrician to supply power?”
Sowe responded “Yes I will love that very much.”
“We go days without food and no one to help” he told me. “As I am writing right now, am with tears because sometimes it feels like to give up. But I have to stay strong for my little sister, am the one she have in this life.”
Another option would be to supply him with agricultural tools and crops. Once trained in their use, he could grow food to sustain his people and earn a wage by doing so.
Though I’m usually not overly emotional when hearing sad tales (perhaps because of my history of and recovery from depression) I must admit that I felt my heartstrings being tugged by Omar’s unfortunate plight. It is admirable that he cares for his family while he has virtually nothing – caring for an aged relative would be a huge responsibility for any teenager!
I did a little research on Gambia and discovered that the nation has a new President, who has just brought them back into the Commonwealth. He will allow foreign aid into the country, after it was blocked for 4 years under the previous regime. I asked Sowe “Does this give you any hope or optimism? Or don’t you trust him? Do you believe that any money or aid will reach your family?”
“Well he just came last year and what you read on news is different from what is happening. People are still suffering because our last president put us in misery. So I hoped and prayed this new don’t be like him and he said he is still settling the state resources so no help for the poor yet” Omar answered. “People love our new president but no changes yet because is a coalition and people are still suffering. The dependency rate here is too high, that’s why we encounter a lot bribery and cheating.”
I told my Facebook friend, who lives in a village named Kabafita near a forest reserve, about UKIP’s 2017 policy to utilise Factory Built Modular housing to ease the British housing crisis. I believe FBM housing should form part of our foreign aid and disaster relief strategies, so I asked him if he thought that this would benefit people in his country.
“Yes it will be so great to have our own home to stay so it will be so good if we have that kind facilities” he replied. “Is far more better than none. It will be so benefiting because too many poor people in The Gambia and homeless people.”
“So you would prefer if foreign aid was spent directly on these ideas, instead of being paid to your President or Government?” I questioned.
“Yes I would love that Mr Hollingworth. I really appreciate your good heart” Omar answered.
“My only worry is my family’s survival. Food is very important in life and we are going without food” he stated.
I enquired if he has many friends where he lives.
He responded “Yes I have true friends but most people here are poor.”
In desperation, Sowe turns to God for help and salvation. As an Atheist, I believe that we can help him and his compatriots more by targeting our foreign aid spending to be more effective, on which he concurs. I urge our Government to immediately cease the current program of paying foreign aid to dictators and aim funds directly into projects that help poor people like Omar.
UKIP wish to reduce foreign aid, as any government should prioritise the welfare of their own populace, but we would match the USA’s policy of donating 2% of Gross National Income. This would equate to over £4 billion per year, more than Spain and Italy combined. Sowe opines “To help our condition does not cost much.” Thus we can achieve more by spending wisely and cutting wasted funds.
Many charity organisations hoard a cache of money in bank accounts, spend a percentage of people’s generous donations on the wages of professional fundraisers and managers are awarded excessive salaries. When you also consider occurrences such as the Oxfam scandal, it is clear that the only viable option is to reform the process of governmental spending.
Further education appears to be Sowe’s chief aspiration; I asked him if there was anything else he would like to say to the British citizenry and he stated “I am an orphan with my little sister living with our old grandmother and would like the British public to help me and my sister to go back school to acquire more knowledge in order to make this world a better place for the poor. Am appealing to each and everyone to have that understanding that we are living in a very critical condition and we definitely needs help. Thank you very much for your concern. My name is Omar.”
So there you have it – a foreign pauper who ought to be a direct recipient of foreign aid agrees with UKIP policy and ideas on the issue with such conviction that he is practically begging for them to be enacted. That just shows what our opponents know!
I am unable to personally give any practical assistance to someone on another continent but I will continue to give moral support to my foreign Facebook friend.