Africa Is Not Poor

by Greg Sund

During our time in language school, each semester we were asked to research and present an “exposé” on a subject of our choosing (in French, of course).  One of my classmates, a surgeon heading to Togo, gave a presentation entitled “Africa Is Not Poor”.  His presentation was based on a recent report which explored the movement of wealth into and out of Africa (specifically Sub-Saharan Africa) each year.  The results were surprising.  Despite the billions of dollars flowing into Africa each year in the form of aid, grants, loans and investments, the net outflow is considerably more, an estimated 41.3 billion dollars annually.  

While so many people living in Africa remain trapped in poverty, we need to remain cognizant of the fact that Africa is in many ways rich: rich in potential mineral resources, biodiversity, business, music, art, and of course rich in people who are strong and intelligent and capable of achieving great things, if given the opportunity to develop these gifts.  Yet much of Africa has been and continues to be exploited by foreign powers.  For many years this occurred in the form of colonialism.  More recently this exploitation tends to occur through multinational corporations in the form of tax dodging, exportation of commodities, illegal logging and fishing and a myriad of other mechanisms.  

“Africa is not poor. Whilst many people in African countries live in poverty, the continent has considerable wealth. A key problem is that the rest of the world, particularly Western countries, are extracting far more than they send back. Meanwhile, they are pushing economic models that fuel poverty and inequality, often in alliance with African elites.”
This is without a doubt a complicated problem, and I certainly don’t claim to have the answers to this problem.  Furthermore, I don’t want to suggest that the answer is cutting off investment in Africa.  I think investment in Africa is a positive step.  But I do believe that the world needs to look more carefully at how that investment is taking place, and if the practices in place now are truly fair and just.  The article outlines nine policies that it suggests are needed to reverse these resource outflows, including enabling transparent and responsible lending, elimination of companies exploiting tax havens, and a transformation of how aid is delivered and used in Sub-Saharan Africa.  
How can we, a team of missionary physicians serving in a rural hospital in Burundi work for transformation of this global injustice?  To be certain, while our sphere of influence is limited, one does exist.  We have influence in the lives of our students, who we hope will become the next generation of African physicians and community leaders in Burundi and it’s neighboring countries.  These East African students can be empowered to understand practices and policies that will lead to greater equity for THEIR people, not just equity of healthcare but equity of investment and aid and human rights.  
The key task is to dismantle the system extracting wealth from Africa. This requires action by African civil society organisations to press for change in their countries, and action by civil society organisations in the countries that are enabling this wealth extraction to take place … Global elites have no intrinsic interest in changing a system that benefits them. It is critical for civil society organisations to expose the role of multinational corporations and Northern governments in impoverishing Africa and to step up their work in building coalitions to end tax dodging and other unfair resource transfers out of Africa.”
How can one teach and empower another people group to understand and work toward justice?  I believe that one needs to see justice from the eyes of our Creator.  And in order to have hope, one needs to have confidence that He cares about every form of injustice on this earth.  We as a team believe that it is through the power of the Gospel, that this deeper understanding of justice is revealed.  And so we are working not just to teach medicine, but to come alongside our African partners as they seek answers to much bigger questions.  As we see the massive importance of justice to our Creator, and the massive role that justice played in our redemption through Christ our Savoir, we are transformed and empowered to see, to understand and to respond.  Transformation is possible.  Indeed, all things are possible with God.  
For those interested, here is a link to the full report: Honest Reports

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