Letter: The wrong sort of aid for Africa

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The Independent Online
Sir: Richard Dowden is correct to point out ('Hot air of change', 22 September) that Britain's role in Africa has declined markedly since it withdrew from direct colonial rule. He does, however, appear to share John Major's view that the problems of war in Africa can be solved by 'preventative diplomacy'.

Sub-Saharan Africa's problems have largely been created by the ex-colonial powers with the aid of the International Monetary Fund. The last two decades saw massive loans made to these countries for projects that were often of little benefit to ordinary people. So-called 'aid' was tied to schemes that directly benefitted the 'donor' country. The Pergau Dam affair in Malaysia revealed how this operates. Much of the technology exported to Africa was unsuitable for countries that have largely labour-intensive agrarian economies.

Many African countries are now tied in to a spiral of debt repayments serviced by the export of cash crops to the West. Food production for export has created food shortages in one of the most fertile regions of the world.

It is significant that Mr Major has raised his 'preventative diplomacy' in South Africa because that country holds the key to the region's future as it is as a significant industrial nation that South Africa could supply all the appropriate technology to its largely agrarian neighbours.

Yours faithfully,

COLIN PENFOLD

Wallasey, Merseyside

22 September

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