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Sunday, June 12th, 2005
Africa and Humanitarian AidIndex: The generous American myth Nigeria and Shell Oil Does Humanitarian Aid really help? Somalia: Did oil play a part in the American invasion? Somalia: History leading up to the American invasion The generous American myth
The American government is notoriously stingy with its foreign aid, giving just 0.2% of GDP to poor countries every year. Even when Americans’ ample private donations are added in, America still falls near the bottom of the rich-nation pack in generosity to those abroad. Yet American voters believe they are absurdly generous. A 2001 poll showed that they think 24% of their federal budget goes on foreign aid, a figure that would amount to more than 4% of America’s GDP. Given that perception, it would be difficult for Mr Bush to agree to substantial spending increases, much less get such an agreement through Congress—especially with a budget deficit expected to top $400 billion this year.
--Economist "Agreeing on Africa, up to a point" Jun 11th 2005
The [United Nations Development Program] report singled out the United States as a major laggard in foreign aid. Unlike the Scandinavian countries, which contribute almost 1% of their gross national product to foreign aid, the United States contributes only 0.15%. And most of this is military aid to Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan and the Philippines.
--Los Angeles Times, "U.S. Rated 7th in Human Development Benefits" May 23, 1991
Total annual U.S. aid for all of Africa is about $3 billion, equivalent to about two days of Pentagon spending. About $1 billion pays for emergency food aid, of which half is for transport. About $1.5 billion is for ''technical cooperation,'' essentially salaries of U.S. consultants. Only about $500 million a year -- less than $1 per African -- finances clinics, schools, food production, roads, power, Internet connectivity, safe drinking water, sanitation, family planning and lifesaving health interventions to fight malaria, AIDS and other diseases.
--Miami Herald: U.S. Does Little as Others Pitch In
“71.6% of the US bilateral aid commitments were tied to the purchase of goods and services from the US.” That is, where the US did give aid, it was most often tied to foreign policy objectives that would help the US.
--The US and Foreign Aid Assistance
Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion.
The total cost to the US of its backing of Israel in its drawn-out, violent dispute with the Palestinians. So far, he figures, the bill adds up to more than twice the cost of the Vietnam War.
--The Christian Science Monitor:Economist tallies swelling cost of Israel to US
The total U.S. foreign aid bill for 1997 came to about 13.6 billion dollars. Of the total amount of aid provided in 1997:
27 percent, or about 3.7 billion dollars, was devoted to straight military assistance and training, and
22 percent, or just over three billion dollars, went to a more ambiguous category called ''security aid.''
Most of the latter consisted of …cash transfers (often to pay for U.S. weapons) …and aid (including weapons) used in the global fight against drugs and terrorism.
-- Inter Press Service:Half of US Foreign Aid Devoted to Military
The Sunday Herald (Scotland) :When It Comes to Africa, [America] has More on His Mind Than Aid
June 12, 2005
Excerpts:A Noose, Not a Bracelet
A ridiculously small amount of US aid, far less than 1% of its total aid budget, is spent in sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest place on Earth. A lot of the funds go to Pakistan, to Israel, to countries that assist in the US's strategic interests. In that respect, foreign aid is, as it always was, a tool of foreign policy.
In stark contrast to Britain, which brought a wealth of diplomatic and technical know-how to post-colonial Africa, and France, which bought influence throughout the continent with generous financial support, for most of the 20th century the United States brought only guns.
The US bears a historical responsibility for numerous regional and tribal conflicts that have destabilized countries such as Angola, Liberia, Congo and Somalia.
Dictators have received billions of dollars of military aid and there are enough small arms in the continent for one in 20 people to have their own personal weapon...
Manganese for steel, cobalt for chrome and alloys, gold, fluorspar and germanium for industrial diamonds - Africa remains a treasure trove for the world's sophisticated economies. The US continues to rely on Africa for raw materials, and for American companies there are tremendous profits in the current trade agreements that continue the age-old exploitation of the continent by the rich world.
Sub-Saharan Africa, the world's poorest place, is also its most profitable investment destination. According to the World Bank's 2003 global development finance report, the huge continent offers "the highest returns on foreign direct investment of any region in the world"...
"There is obviously poverty reduction rhetoric but when you look closely at the way aid is tied to contracts for US companies you can see that it is a different way of benefiting the domestic economy. It is being done for the benefit of US business and not for the poor of the countries receiving the aid," says Peter Hardstaff, head of policy at the UK-based World Development Movement.
The exploitation of Africa has a long and sordid history, dripping in blood and corruption and with enough blame and guilt to share between all the participants - Western governments, multinational companies and national leaders. On trade the US still does extremely well from the plunder of Africa's raw materials....
...The African Growth and Opportunity Act, which sounds like a benevolent multilateral trade agreement between the US and Africa, forces participants to remove subsides from their industries (while allowing the US to subsidize its own) and insists on privatization of social services such as water even in countries that face drought.
The non-government organizations working in the continent have described the agreement as a colonial imposition that provides the US with cheap labor and goods and tax-free energy. Of course, over 90% of the sales under the agreement in its first nine months were oil exports from Nigeria and Gabon.
The over-riding American concern in Africa, as it is across the entire globe, is oil security. Oil, its extraction and supply, will always be the top priority for the US. The biggest returns, and the most important product out of Africa for the coming decades, will be petroleum. The returns are not for Africans though. While 70% of Nigerians exist on a dollar a day, Shell continues to make megaprofits from oil drilling in the country, taking an estimated $30bn out of the ground since the 1950s.
At present 12% of US oil comes from Africa and by 2015, when the UN's Millennium Goals to halve world poverty will be laughably incomplete, that proportion will have reached 25%...
Poverty and the needs of the African population will take second place to US geo-political strategy. In the lexicon of aid and trade, the NEPAD agreements and the AGOA, there are only three letters that really matter to the US in Africa, they are O-I-L.
The Nation: What keeps Africa poor is not a lack of political will but the tremendous profitability of the current arrangement
by Naomi Klein
Excerpts: Does Humanitarian Aid really help?
With all this noblesse oblige focused on saving Africa from its misery, it seems like a good time to remember someone else who tried to make poverty history: Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was killed ten years ago this November by the Nigerian government, along with eight other Ogoni activists, sentenced to death by hanging. Their crime was daring to insist that Nigeria was not poor at all but rich, and that it was political decisions made in the interests of Western multinational corporations that kept its people in desperate poverty. Saro-Wiwa gave his life to the idea that the vast oil wealth of the Niger Delta must leave behind more than polluted rivers, charred farmland, rancid air and crumbling schools. He asked not for charity, pity or "relief" but for justice.
The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People demanded that Shell compensate the people from whose land it had pumped roughly $30 billion worth of oil since the 1950s. The company turned to the government for help, and the Nigerian military turned its guns on demonstrators...
...Ten years later, 70 percent of Nigerians still live on less than $1 a day and Shell is still making superprofits. Equatorial Guinea, which has a major oil deal with ExxonMobil, "got to keep a mere 12 percent of the oil revenues in the first year of its contract," according to a 60 Minutes report--a share so low it would have been scandalous even at the height of colonial oil pillage.
Harper's Magazine: The Food-Aid Racket
Somalia: Did oil play a part in the American invasion?
Los Angeles Times: The Oil Factor in Somalia
January 18, 1993
Four American petroleum giants had agreements with the African nation before its civil war began. They could reap big rewards if peace is restored. History of Somalia, and why it is such disaster even today.
Times Newspapers: In the land of the living dead
August 30, 1992