Gay rights and aid: Africa’s new challenge

William Manful
By William Manful

William Manful is a human rights advocate committed to the democratization of Africa. He has worked as a contributing columnist for afrik- and talkafrique. He holds degrees in french and spanish as well as international relations from the University of Cambridge. Mr manful also writes on philosophy, sports and cinema. He is currently working for the Government of Ghana.

Posted on Wednesday, 21 December 2011 18:34

When US secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed gay rights in Geneva by using it as a basis for American policy on aid and political asylum, she joined a clarion call from the West asking African states to alter local legislation pertaining to homosexuality.

The continent’s response was echoed in the comments of Ugandan Presidential Adviser Mr. John Nagenda when he told the BBC that “…..Americans can go to hell if they think they can tell us what to do….” The US is yet to adopt any punitive measures towards countries that have decided to illegalise or criminalise same sex relations.

The Nigerian senate has already approved a Bill criminalising Gay and Lesbian acts in the country even though the lower house of parliament is yet to pass it, the legislative body has used the British Prime Minister David Cameron’s threat to cut aid as grounds to rally public support against the former colonial master’s attempts to influence Nigeria’s internal affairs.

Throughout Africa the reaction to the Western call for more tolerance and acceptance of homosexuals and lesbians has been met with hostility. The Ghanaian parliament too was united in its condemnation of homosexuality with some going as far as clamouring for legislation that banned the act altogether.

Now the West is yet to sanction African states for adopting a staunch position on the matter with leaders like David Cameron even backtracking a little from earlier comments when it became apparent that it did not go down well with continental leaders.

The issue however of linking aid to other demands accentuates the fundamental need for African states to be self reliant fully aware of the delicacy that come with the export of development to the continent.

A wake up call on aid and sovereignty?

It behooves the continent’s leaders to see the withdrawal of aid, any aid, as an opportunity to develop via the adoption of austerity measures that will instill fiscal discipline and mitigate waste in annual budgets.

The derailment of donor assistance from the West will only mean that African countries from now on will have to find alternative means of funding their budgets. This in essence should not be a problem considering the vast resources on the continent.

Africa is now experiencing a commodity boom, with continental growth coming from higher revenues generated from the export of natural resources. The financial meltdown in Europe and the US has lowered investor confidence in portfolio investments and property acquisition. Traders now look to keep their savings in commodities such as gold and diamond for long term growth which means that resource rich countries like Ghana, Botswana, Sierra Leone stand to gain.

Over the years the paradigm of development through aid has not worked. What the continent rather needs is economic growth through trade and investment for job creation and proper industrialisation. So even though the suspension of donor funds may on the surface at least appear to be unfair, it may actually bode well for the continent forcing politicians to finally sit up and adopt the proper measures that would enable Africa to grow through its resources and natural wealth.

For the African ability to adopt home grown initiatives towards economic growth and transformation as well as the full realisation of national sovereignty through the suspension of donor assistance would indeed highlight the West’s inability to thrive without the resources that are taken from the continent and its people.

The denial of aid must therefore be welcomed and treated as a surmountable challenge rather than an impediment to development.

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