James Shikwati is a Kenyan economist and libertarian. He is known for promoting the idea that the current system of sending aid to Africa causes more harm than good, due to the fact that the influx of cheap food often hurts African farmers, and many corrupt governments misuse the aid rather than sending it directly to those who need it. James Shikwati was born in rural Western Kenya on a banana farm in . ED in Arts.
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James Shikwati is a Kenyan economist and libertarian. He is known for promoting the idea that the current system of sending aid to Africa causes more harm than good, due to the fact that the influx of cheap food often hurts African farmers, and many corrupt governments misuse the aid rather than sending it directly to those who need it.
James Shikwati was born in rural Western Kenya on a banana farm in . ED in Arts. The same year he went on to teach geography, sociology, and ethics at Kiptewit High School in the Kenyan province of Kericho Rift Valley until During his time as a teacher, he filled out dozens of applications to American graduate schools. Many libertarians consider The Law to be highly relevant to the ideas of libertarianism even though it was written more than a century ago by Frederic Bastiat .
In his book, Bastiat asserts that every person has a natural right to defend their person, liberty, and property; a government should not go beyond protecting these rights.
Under this presumption, philanthropic acts like aid cannot be justified because they plunder citizens of their property through taxation. Similarly, it makes the recipient dependent on these philanthropic acts which interferes with the benefits of a free market. Libertarianism is a political philosophy that emphasizes freedom, individual liberty, and voluntary association. When Shikwati learned about the principles of libertarianism by reading The Law, he quickly realized that foreign aid was doing more harm than good to the African economy.
If Africa wants to develop its economy it needs to stop being dependent on foreign aid and look to its own resources for real value.
Shikwati notes that Africa has enormous capital in the form of natural resources . Many libertarians agree that money is the result, and not a precondition, of economic achievement. Shikwati thinks that investments in the people will promote freedom and bring economic success to Africa. The history of farm subsidies in America helps explain the origins of sending aid abroad. In , the Hoover administration first bought up and stored million bushels of wheat to please the farm bloc.
Subsidies like this brought three main benefits to the American economy: they stabilized food prices, ensured food production, and guaranteed income for farmers.
However, the storage costs incurred by the Hoover administration became an issue during the Great Depression so the Roosevelt administration set a precedent by paying farmers to simply plant fewer crops. Farm subsidies continued to grow as the supply of crops increased with the improvement of farming methods. Farm subsidies work by establishing an artificial price floor which has the unwanted effect of generating a significant surplus of crops.
This surplus can be controlled in a variety of ways and the Food for Peace program was established in the s to send it abroad. In addition to keeping the surpluses away from the domestic economy, the program built new markets for American products and rewarded favored third world regimes. Since the origin of the Food for Peace program, many other aid programs have developed that bring similar benefits.
In the late nineteenth century, imperialism in Africa was rampant. European nations were rushing to carve out spheres of influence and make divisions along their own political lines, rather than tribal or cultural lines.
This not only divided many tribes, but tried to group others together who may have had generations of conflict between them. Even though the European countries eventually pulled out after many long struggles and quests for independence, Africa was left divided and without any strong system of government. In many countries, this has led to violent coups, genocide, militaristic dictators, and government corruption.
This instability and general prevalence of corruption in many African countries is one of the major inhibitors to the success of foreign aid. When other countries and organizations send aid in the form of money, food, or other resources, it is often given to the government of the country receiving the aid to distribute to its people. However, in many cases these governments will take the aid and use it for their own profit before it reaches the people, if in fact it ever reaches them.
In some cases, if the aid given is not financial, the government will sell the resources it receives instead of freely distributing it to its citizens in need . Another common form of misuse is the use of aid to buy votes. When corrupt government leaders are presented with aid for their country, some will use it as an incentive to persuade citizens to vote for them in order to receive a portion of the aid, as a means to retain their positions of power .
James Shikwati believes that the lack of money being donated to Africa is not the reason why the continent is struggling. He argues that when the money is given to people it limits what it can be used for. For example, if a farmer has a leak in his roof, money may be given to him to repair the roof but he may feel that the money is better spent elsewhere.
However, since the money was given to him, the power of what to do lies with the donor and therefore the only option is to repair the roof. This, Shikwati argues, is why donating money will do little to help improve the continent. Instead Shikwati wants young people to realize that they can turn African problems into opportunities.
Entrepreneurial opportunities exist in feeding an estimated million people, killing billions of malaria causing mosquitoes, and developing infrastructure. He also wants Africans to utilize the continents abundance of natural resources that could allow them to become competitive in many different industries including the cell phone industry . Shikwati wants the people of Africa to basically invest in Africa.
The experts all had different responses to the question. Some believed that money will help while others were vehemently against it. All experts, including James Shikwati, agree that just sending money to Africa is not the solution to its development problems. They all agree that the money must be given to the people instead of governments and that the money should be used to promote entrepreneurship and create businesses.
Most importantly, all agree that there is no short term solution to solving Africa's development problem. They all recommend that for the aid program to be successful, long-term plans must be implemented and continued to completion .
The issue of a short-term fix versus a long-term solution is a conflict that repeatedly rears its head in professional ethics. This is evident in Africa where western governments give African governments billions of dollars without any clear long-term plan for what to do with the money. The United States government has similar programs back on the home-front as well.
Both farm subsidies and Social Security are programs where the government gives money to solve a problem without developing a clear long-term solution. Companies do the same thing.
Corporations like Enron, Arthur Andersen, and Worldcom both sacrificed their long-term stability and viability for large short-term gains. Big banks have done the same thing with the housing market offering high-risk mortgages instead of ensuring their long-term gains.
It is important for people and companies to remember what effects their actions today can have in the future. From Wikibooks, open books for an open world. Category : Book:Professionalism.
SPIEGEL Interview with African Economics Expert: "For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!"
Professionalism/James Shikwati and Aid to Africa
James Shikwati born is a Kenyan libertarian economist and Director of the Inter Region Economic Network who promotes freedom of trade as the driving solution to poverty in Africa. He has made comments which imply that aid towards Africa does more harm than good to their people, based on the central arguments that it is mainly used either by politicians as a tool to manipulate people and influence votes, or as a mechanism for dumping subsidised foreign agricultural products onto local markets at below cost making it nearly impossible for African farmers to compete. A graduate from the University of Nairobi B. He is a "self taught" economist. Shikwati is a writer and a commentator on public policy with a special interest in development, environment, trade and agriculture related issues.
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