Common Ground: Africa cannot afford US budget mistakes

Nick Bratcher

I promise to withhold the Amy Grant music and sappy photos of small children with large bellies from malnourishment.

What you and I both need is a real, fresh perspective on Africa — without any smoke and mirrors — just plain truth and a real plan to help.

Here goes nothing.

In 2000, the United Nations created the Millennium Development Goals, a list of eight measurable goals that it deemed accomplishable by 2015.

Among these are reducing world poverty by 50 percent, providing primary education for all of the world’s children, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

Though many of these universal goals have been met worldwide, I bet you can’t guess which region of the world ranks last in all of these categories with none of these goals met.

In a depressing side note, if you exclude China’s improvement in these areas, none of these goals are even met worldwide.

But you already know that Africa is especially struggling, and I offered you a fresh perspective earlier.

So where’s the beef, Nick?

Well, let’s start with why Africa is in the situations it’s in.

Following the scramble for Africa in the late 19th century in which most of Europe colonized Africa, the West used black people living on this continent for slave trade or as slave labor to harvest their existing and abundant natural resources.

In the 1960s, as African countries won their political independence, they found themselves with no actual ability to govern themselves in the wake of the European occupation.

In fact, after freeing itself from Belgian rule, the Democratic Republic of Congo had just four residents with college degrees in its population of 2 million.

Negating the psychological effects that such an existence full of slavery and subhuman treatment can have on a nation, is it really any shock that Africa has struggled in the wake of imperial rule?

It’s because of us, or at least our grandparents’ parents, and the advantages we gained at the expense of these countries’ dignity and possibility of improvement.

So what are we to do?

Well, alongside those millennium goals, the UN also developed a plan to achieve them. As part of this plan, they assigned a percentage of gross domestic income for each developed country to give in foreign aid that would be necessary if the goals were to be met.

That magic number is .7 percent for the U.S.

But the U.S. gave just .22 percent of its GDI in 2005, according to the UN Development Group.

Though we do give more money than any other country to foreign aid, we also have a much larger market than any other country, meaning that we have greater capability of helping these people.

Unfortunately, we have a few domestic issues that seem to be of greater importance than Africa. You may have noticed them on CNN or Fox News.

I’ve advocated this in other columns, but the U.S. continually ignores its need to cut discretionary spending for defense, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

Republicans may have lost the most recent battle for fiscal responsibility, but there will be more opportunities to make the necessary cuts that the U.S. has to make.

Let’s do it for Africa.