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21 January, 2018

Tired of US “aid” (exploitation), Africa and Global South look to China

How much can Raytheon, Mastercard, Nokia, Monsanto and the like be trusted to invest in long-term outcomes in the global South? When you see the actors behind U.S. ‘aid and development’ in Africa, is it any wonder that African leaders would look for any other partner to work with?

by Jim Carey

Part 2 - U.S. investment and aid: philanthropy is business

In order to better understand how U.S. aid and investment in infrastructure work in Africa, it’s best to look at the Western corporations that function as “philanthropy contractors.” One of these U.S.-based philanthropic giants that dominate aid and development in Africa is the well-known Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

One prime example of how U.S. aid organizations operate in Africa is a Gates Foundation initiative that was launched in Nairobi, Kenya, where the foundation created a series of “financial inclusion labs” in a partnership with Mastercard. The Mastercard project, launched in 2014, was a part of the Gates Foundation’s “Financial Services for the Poor” program, meant to provide more access to “digital payment options” for people in the global South.

Publicly, what this project did was provide electronic payment services to citizens of Nairobi because payment-processing giant Mastercard just felt bad they didn’t have them.

In reality, what the project did was secure the market of Nairobi and the users of the Mastercard system as customers for the corporation, without Mastercard actually having to risk any of its own money. Mastercard even confirmed that this was their reasoning in a press release issued at the time, which said the grant from the Gates Foundation gave Mastercard access to “new markets that may otherwise be commercially unviable” by paying all of their costs to enter the market.

The Gates Foundation uses its influence to aid other corporate partners to secure contracts in Africa too. One such company that Bill Gates is a personal cheerleader for is agriculture giant Monsanto, which the Gates Foundation portrays as a key partner in ending world hunger. Monsanto has a reputation for using the vulnerability of countries in need of agricultural aid to its own advantage to crush local production networks, as it attempted to do in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, which eventually led to protests by farmers, with some even burning Monsanto seeds.

These kinds of protests surrounding Monsanto’s effects on local economies have also played out in Africa — one example being Kenya, where GMO imports were banned in order to protect Kenyan agriculture. When the government tried to reintroduce GMO food, all sectors of Kenyan society took to the streets to voice their opposition. Since implementing this ban, Kenya has faced pressure from none other than the Gates Foundation, which is spending its time, money and political capital on behalf of Monsanto to reverse the ban on GMO imports.

The Gates Foundation even practices this form of philanthropic blackmail at home in the U.S. The prime example of this was the Foundation’s championing of “Common Core” programs in schools. Common Core, which continues to be highly unpopular among U.S. parents, is an initiative pushed by the Gates Foundation, with pressure applied through the policy that the charity would not provide money to schools that didn’t implement their approved curriculum.

Clearly, these practices aren’t limited strictly to the Gates Foundation, Mastercard, Monsanto, or any other single U.S. corporation. Another example that was highlighted last year during the U.S. presidential election was the Clinton Foundation, its donors, and its contract recipients in reconstruction and aid projects.

It is in this framework that one can see that the U.S. philanthropy industry doesn’t necessarily act as an altruistic charity but rather as a source of corporate subsidies disguised as altruism.

These foundations partner with everyone, from defense contractors to foreign despots — convenient and seemingly indiscriminate couplings that should make anyone question their motives and how well the corporations responsible for many of the world’s problems can really be trusted to solve them.

How much can Raytheon, Mastercard, Nokia, Monsanto and the like be trusted to invest in long-term outcomes in the global South? When you see the actors behind U.S. ‘aid and development’ in Africa, is it any wonder that African leaders would look for any other partner to work with?

It just so happens that Africa has found a much more reliable partner that is rising to the rank of a global superpower.

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