Book Reviews History and Culture Politics

‘It’s Our Turn To Eat’: final excerpt

In the final chapter of the book, author Michela Wrong laments the prevailing attitude amongst Western donors who have, by and large, been more interested in disbursing ever-larger sums of money to recipient nations than in ensuring accountability frameworks are adhered to.

She suggests that Western qualms and sensitivities are in fact encouraging political elites to become more brazen in their abuse of state resources, as well as giving credibility to governments that don’t deserve it. She writes (pp326-327):

“If they only set foot on the continent, idealistic Westerners would be astonished to hear how often, and how fiercely, politically engaged Africans call for aid to be cut, conditionalities sharpened.

Kenyan journalist Kwamchetsi Makokha is not alone in detecting an incipient racism, rather than altruism, in our lack of discrimination. ‘Fundamentally the West doesn’t care enough about Africa to pay too much attention to how its money is spent. It wants to be seen to do the right thing, and that’s as far as the interest goes.’

One of the many lessons of John Githongo’s story is that the key to fighting graft in Africa does not lie in fresh legislation or new institutions [per se]. Most African states already have the gamut of tools required to do the job. A Prevention of Corruption Act has actually been on the Kenyan statute books since 1956. ‘You don’t need any more bodies, you don’t need any more laws, you just need good people and the will’, says Hussein Were [a quantity surveyor].

Rather than dreaming up sexy-sounding short cuts, donors should be pouring their money into the boring old institutions African regimes have deliberately starved of cash over the years: the police force, judicial system and civil service.”


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