Welcome to (African) reality…

Davy Adams with an important corrective to the view that Northern Ireland in any way represents the intractable harshness of reality.

  • circles

    Extremely glad to see this post – thanx a million for that Mick.
    There is no debating what he claims. In the recently published Human Development Index of the UN, which surveyed 177 countries and evaluated basically the “quality” of life.

    Ireland showed up in 8th place – 15 of the top 20 were from Europe.

    Niger was 177th – the bottom 20 places were occupied entirely by African countries.

    Regarding the 0.7% – not all “northern” countries are failing miserably in reaching this extremely modest target for development assistance. Sweden for example has reached it quite some time ago and hopes to reach 1% by 2010 I think.

  • circles

    On the other – I would have really liked to have known what he was doing over there with Goal. What could a fleshy, white northern european do over there that someone from Niger couldn’t?? (apart from get the issue into the public when he comes back)

  • 6countyprod

    Circles, do I detect a hint of scepticism in your query about why David Adams was in Niger in the first instance?

    Are you implying that Niger, or Burkina and Mali, etc. can do without our help or involvement (read: interference)? I’m not accusing, just wondering.

  • Michael Turley

    Goal recently appealed for volunteers to help in Niger (for aid related activity – not community protection, I assume).

  • Biffo


    ” I would have really liked to have known what he was doing over there with Goal. “

    It’s a good article. It’s good that he puts our whingeing and moaning into proper perspective.

    But I wondereed exactly the same thing.

  • justlooking

    This column, I presume, was a follow up to a previous one where he explained he had volunteered to help with famine relief in Niger.
    I also heard him on Talk Back before he went talking about why he felt he should go and give what help he could.
    Fair play to him I say – never mind his politics or religion, which seem to be the underlying reasons behind some of the snide comments above.

    Can’t understand the thinking behind this one – “What could a fleshy, white northern european do over there that someone from Niger couldn’t??”

    I imagine doling out the food and medical aid.

    If the fleshy white europeans just dumped the food and medical aid at the airport does anybody actually imagine any of it would get past gov. officials etc. to the people who need it?

  • Ross

    What was Davy Adams doing out in Niger? Seemingly, much more than he or anybody else could ever do here. Taking time away from family and friends to help others – good man. He probably feels he did much more in the time he spent there than he ever did at the White House debating Northern Ireland. Davy Adams went of his own voilition. The rest of the political crowd in NI should be sent out as punishment

  • Tochais Síoraí

    The man is an articulate and obviously a decent individual who looks beyond his own backyard, which many of us (incl meself) don’t do enough.

    He is Unionist, British etc. etc. and a former politico who has been hounded out of Unionist politics. Why is this? Why can’t Unionism accomodate someone like this?

  • 6countyprod

    Tochais Síoraí, why are you introducing a red herring? Why are you trying to change the subject? Cheap political point-scoring? Guilty conscience, perhaps?

    There is a big problem with people from Ireland, especially the north. We are all so conscious and concerned about our own ‘wee’ problems, our own wee ghettoes, on our own wee island, and we don’t want to be disturbed from our wallowing in lethargy and selfishness by those who have real problems.

    I have no idea who David Adams is, or what role he played in politics, but at least he is sensitive to the needs of others and realises there is more to life than our own greed.

    I hope his experience in Africa will lead him into something more permanent that will take him away from the pitiful, self-centred existence we sometimes have in this part of the world.

  • ch in dallas

    6countyprod, Good post. When I was reading the article, it reminded me of Bono or Geldoff. It then occurred to me that Ireland is taking a leading role in waking up the 1st world to the dire situation in Africa in particular. What is it, if anything, in the Irish character, that puts a tear in the Irish eye, over the suffering of the “other”? Famine memories? Anyway, my hat’s off to the Irish here.

  • Mick Fealty

    Circles, if Davy hadn’t gone you wouldn’t be reading this.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    6CP, methinks thou doth protest too much. I read DA’s articles in the IT and find them both interesting and thought provoking esp the African related ones. He writes in the IT from a northern perspective and comes from a UDA/UDP background which is why I made the ‘political’ comments. Of course both he and you are right in saying we spend far too much time wallowing in our own self pity and ignoring people with real problems.

  • Jacko

    ch in dallas

    I agree entirely. Not for the first time has it struck me how, mostly through individuals and NGOs, Ireland punches way above its weight in terms of aid, assistance and highlighting 3rd world issues, especially in Africa.
    History of the famine and colonialism surely does have something to do with it.

  • 6countyprod

    Tochais Síoraí, so, where do we go from here?

    We hear of a great need, we feel sorry for people, even to the point that we think we should do something, so we drop a few coins in the ‘Jar for Africa’ at the pub…, and then we move unto the next concern (lottery, where to go for a carry-out, another round, holiday, new car, etc. etc), and forget all about those in need.

    It’s going to take real commitment and sacrifice from overweight, white Europeans to effect any real change in the developing world. Sympathy and a few shillings isn’t enough!

    You think I protest too much.

    If you had watched dozens die from malaria because there was no cheap malaria prophylaxis available, you, too, would be protesting.

    If you had watched farmers scraping some food from the ground because no one had bothered to tell them or teach them about oxen and ploughs, you, too, would be protesting.

    If you had watched villagers being ripped off by unscrupulous cotton and rice traders because they couldn’t read or write, you, too, would be protesting.

    If you had dripped cold water into the mouth of a man with AIDS, who couldn’t swallow anymore, and who through ignorance had contracted the disease, when billions are being spent on experimental drugs for western gays, you, too, would be protesting.

    If you had watched babies die from tetanus because the medical centre didn’t have a clean blade with which to cut the chord, you, too, would be protesting.

    I could go on, but I’m sure you get my drift. And these are only the physical problems. Don’t get me started on the spiritual.

    Compared to these modern day disgraces, the Irish, past or present, have absolutely nothing to complain about.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Where do we go from here? Maybe a start would be to lobby our political leaders to concentrate on wider problems in the world instead of our material well-being at home and stupid little issues like the right the march / not to march in certain areas, flags, etc. Concentrate on a securing something like a Marshall plan type operation (and dropping the debt) in countries where their govts show signs they could spend the money properly. Telling them we agree with a tax hike if the money was going to build an infrastructure where pisspoor countries could start to support themselves. As you say, the jar going around the pub does feckall.

    Of course I didn’t mean you protest too much about the real issues. I and most other people around here certainly don’t protest enough.

  • ch in dallas

    Good, heart-felt posts from 6cp and ts. Thank you Jacko for the explanation. The quesion is action. Back to Bono. Some criticize him for mixing with the multi-nationals and politicians, but he says they’re the ones with the power, money, drugs, infrastructure ect to do something on the ground. I believe G-8 was discussing this on 7/7. I’ve talked to a couple of African immigrants here, and they think the big problem in Africa is political, ie “The Big Man”. Aid does little good ending up in Switzerland, or AIDS drugs ending up on the black-market in the 1st world. Those are certainly not reasons to withhold those things,no indeed, but I think Bono et. al. have it right. The Irish with the heart, helping direct the rest of the 1st world with the wallet, and a multifaceted political approach. Something for everyone to pitch in with!!:)

  • 6countyprod

    ch, the ‘Big Man’ is the perennial problem that besets African politics. I have witnessed a number of thriving countries disintegrate through cronyism and tribalism. In many instances, when a man become President, he sets about installing people from his ethnic group, or closely related groups, to positions of power and influence. He then systematically channels the majority of the country’s wealth and resources to benefit his own people, e.g. spending on things like health, education, community development, etc. within the limits of his base support.

    If ever you get a chance to read the book ‘The Africans’ by David Lamb, it is well worth reading. It is a little dated, I think it was written in the 80’s, but similar conditions still exist today in many African countries, and his conclusions are still valid.

    Africa does not, necessarily, have to have full western-style democracy. Sometimes a form of accountable benevolent ‘dictatorship’ can work well. The problem is getting 2 benevolent ‘dictators’ in a row to carry on the tradition.

    I know that, as former ‘colonialists’, the west has a lot to offer Africa. A huge problem is free trade. In relation to Africa, Bob Geldof said that the EU operates a protection racket that even Al capone would be proud of. He is absolutely right. African farmers receive only a fraction of the value of their produce, while western interests, particularly France and the UK, benefit greatly. Hopefully that is beginning to change, although the French are very resistant.

    Africa also needs selfless people from developed countries who will be willing to give a part of their lives (not just short visits), to help train and encourage Africans to take responsibility for their own affairs. You need to show them how to do it, teach them how to do it, watch them doing it, advise on how it can be done better, and continue monitoring them as they do it, until it becomes a habit. That takes time.

    Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have taken a good interest in helping Africa catch up with the rest of the world. I hope their efforts have a lasting positive effect.

  • ch in dallas

    6cp, Obviously, you have had much first hand experience with all of this. I appreciate the name of the book and will see if the library has it.

    The USA has the Peace Corps, where a young person volunteers for a 2 year stint to do what you described about teaching, showing, showing again. People in the 1st world don’t realize that us even turning on tap water is a remarkable thing. In Africa, just toting water takes a lot of time and energy, usually by women and girls. And the water’s not clean. We in the rich countries don’t suffer from worms and other parasites.

    Another problem is multi-national or NGO dumping. With possibly good intentions a company will dump unsold clothing or cloth, “donating it”, which puts local manufacturing and weaving out of business, which then hurts the cotton farmers.
    As you said, the E.U. would not permit that in their countries. Or a drug company “donating” drugs. Problem is, they send it in unmarked barrels to a storehouse, usually for a tax write off. It’s then Africas problem to destroy it. I can’t quote you chapter and verse of where I heard or read this, so I offer it as opinion.

    Blair and Brown have done well, I too think, and I would add the present US administration. The party opposite here talked a good Africa game, but it was the present President who got the ball going. Well, I take that back. Clinton inhereted Somolia from Pres Bush pere, and didn’t want another “Black Hawk Down” any time soon. Kudos to Tony on Darfur as well.

  • Young Fogey

    A very thought provoking article and it reaffirms my view that much as I thought the UDP were a waste of space the loss of Davy Adams to Northern Ireland politics was a big one and I hope he can make a bigger contribution to our country and our society some day.

    I’m glad to see we’re all so positive about helping Africa here. Just don’t kid yourselves that economic development in Africa will be welcomed with open arms in the rich world if it actually happens. Look at the begrudgery and downright hostility in the West and rich Asia to rising prosperity in China and India (countries where, despite recent events, hundreds of millions still live in rural poverty rivalling that of Africa). Too many of us (and I’m not referring to people here) want nice telegenic African kids with no shoes and stout peasant yeomen to give money to. We don’t really want Africans to be our equals. That’s a disgrace; but sadly, it’s a reality.

    Secondly – the sort of intermediate technology and basic healthcare work that seems to form the backbone of development work at the moment is tremendously important; but the ugly uber-industrial aid projects of the 60s and 70s have given hard, ugly, infrastructure aid in Africa a bad name. That’s a pity. In the globalised economy we live in African workers need to be able to get their goods to the rich markets of Europe, North America and Asia. That means better roads, better seaports and better airports and rail where population density makes it a cost effective option. At the moment, that’s a big part of the difference between Asia and Latin America on the one hand, and Africa on the other.

    I remember reading an paper by a couple of economists – not development economists, but big ugly fat cat corporate economists who decided yo do something worthwhile for a change – appealing for funds to be made available to build a European quality dual carriageway from Kampala, capital of landlocked Uganda, to the container port of Mombassa on the Kenyan coast. The potential boost to Uganda’s economy would be enormous, and Uganda could fill truckloads every day with things we want to buy in the rest of the world, but sadly this sort of development of out of fashion. What could a decent freight railway from Nigeria or Ghana across the Sahara to Morocco and then to Europe do for economic potential in the Sahel and West African littoral?

    Human development is vital, but it needs to be matched by the sort of infrastructure development which allows Africans to compete with the rest of the world. At the moment, much aid seems to be capable of helping Africans help themselves become secure smallholding peasantry, but little more. That’s better than the status quo, but it’s not good enough. In human terms, there’s no reason why, well run but desperately poor African countries like, let’s say Mozambique, can’t achieve what South Korea or Taiwan did a generation ago and finally end the cycle of dependency and mutual resentment. But that means industrial development as well as agricultural development.

    Finally, there’s one thing we can do as short term visitors – that’s take our holidays in Africa and spend our hard currencies there. At the moment, one of Africa’s problems is that even where there is a tourist industry, visitors either travel 5 star (with prices to match) or sleep on a straw mat under the stars… If more of us adventurous, low budget tourists were prepared to go there, then a budget tourist industry could develop which would be more accessible and spread wealth more widely than the existing concrete and megabuck tourist industry. What are a few pounds, euro or dollars to us are a decent living wage in Africa. Think about it.

    (And to that end, I’m off to West Africa in the late winter – not that I’m bragging – and the shortlist is down to Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana or Senegal; advice welcome!!!)

    PS – as a counterweight to all this, some friends of mine had a week’s leisure time to kill in Niger a few years ago, before the famine. They liked it. A poor, but proud, determined and hospitable people, an interesting local culture and an eye popping view from the pub they got their beers in at from a bluff over the River Niger. Wherever you go, people live, love, have fun and do the things we all do.

  • 6countyprod

    Young Fogey,

    Ghana is one of the up and coming African countries and is ridiculously cheap to travel and lodge in. Also cheaper to get to (from UK/Ireland) than the French-speaking countries.

    Nice thing about Ghana is that you have easy access to Burkina Faso, the 3rd poorest country in the world, but full of great people. BF means ‘land of the honorable people’, and that is what they are. At least, all the ones I met.

    Tourism would be a big help to some of the W. African countries, if they could just get their act together.

  • Young Fogey

    6cp – have also heard really good things about Ghana especially the Slave Coast around Elmina… perfect beaches, interesting history, nice people. I’ve a friend who goes out there nearly every year. At the minute that seems to be top of the short list. Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll have time to make it up to Burkina Faso as I’ve also heard great things about Bobo Dilassou – but the beach beckons!

    The interesting thing about the Slave Coast is that it seems to be really popular with black Americans – they go out there for an exploring Roots trip, fall in love and come back often.

    Air France (who are great on the London-Paris route, FWIW) have a nasty reputation for obscene prices and crapola service to Francophone Africa, where they tend to be the only major carrier who flies to Europe. Of course, that can only change if more people come and it’s worthwhile for someone else to give them a bit of competition.

    Don’t think Senegal is so bad as from the UK/Ireland you have alternatives like Iberia changing in Madrid and Air Maroc changing in Casablanca for Dakar. Dakar also appeals as it has great music, and unlike a lot of other African countries the Senegal coast seems to have a budget infrastructure as it’s becoming very popular with French backpackers and even package tourists.

    Cameroon is definitely a more adventurous desitination – Krabi looks one of the most gorgeous places on God’s earth, though. It does have its downsides – more expensive to get to, awkward land transport on the Cameroon side and difficult ham radio licensing (Ghana, Senegal and The Gambia are all easy). Maybe one for later when I’m a bit more Africa acclimatised, but you never know.

  • cirlces

    The reason I asked what Davy Adams was doing over there is because I actually know Niger fairly well (in fact I’m moving there in January for three years, and lived next door in Burkina Faso for a while), and its a question I actually pose myself on a regular basis (so 0 points to all those who supposed it was all just some kind of political dig).
    The thing about the food crisis in Niger was that it was extremely localised, and the capital Niamey came away from it basically unscathed (no dying thousand on the streets etc.), as did a large part of the country – so its a mistake to think that everyone was lying around so weak that there was nobody around to pass about the emergency aid (which by the way has put local food markets under serious pressure as its flooded the place, driving prices right down and threatening to do long term damage to cereal production there).
    Many national NGOs were much better placed to manage the crisis than the storm of international aid agencies who were tripping over each other trying to get into the crisis region, promptly setting up huge programmes with little or no coordination with other organisations or national structures. Added to this was the flood of helpers many of whom were (dare I say it…) barely in the position to be of any real help there (although the awareness raising they can do when they get back home is invaluable – which I did indicate in my very first post). While international relief agencies do indeed to magnificent work, there are times when serious questions regarding the efficency of having 15 and more organisations in a small area all basically fighting for the own little corner to spend their money in have to be asked.

    Just a quick answer to justlooking’s musings:
    “If the fleshy white europeans just dumped the food and medical aid at the airport does anybody actually imagine any of it would get past gov. officials etc. to the people who need it?” Actually yes it can – despite what the newws may lead people to believe Africa is not filled with helpless civilians and evil despots sucking the people dry (although they do exist). Africa is not a continent that needs to be treated like a helpless child, with the caring European parent making sure the hungry people get enough to eat – indeed this arrogance towards Africa and undermining of democratically elected governements there is part of the wider problem that helps keep many countries throughout the continent in dire straits. How can someone just blown in to a situation even pretend to iunderstand the complex social relationships that they are getting involved in?

    Imagine if it was the other way round? If we were suffering from famine and lets say Senegal starts sending people to east Belfast to dish out “food and medical aid” – going completely over the heads of local structures and unaware of many of the local sensibilities.

  • Young Fogey

    Circles – great post.

  • 6countyprod


    Sorry for doubting you! Thanks for your comments.

    My wife and I are planning to move back to W. Africa in January. All being well we will be settling in southwest Burkina.

  • circles

    Will ya be in Gaoua 6CP (I imagine so – its the only real town in the area)?
    I lived there for a year. It was a great place actually, but they’ve recently finished the road and I think the traffic volume has seriously increased (although with the road to the sea through Cote d’Ivoire no longer being so free it may not be so bad).

  • 6countyprod

    ‘real town’ is maybe a little bit of an overstatement! I have been there 3 times over the past couple of years. It was nice to have electricity (when it worked) and telephones. Did you rent there? I am looking for a house. Any ideas?

  • circles

    Yeah – rented a house down the road from Halla Hotel (in the direction of the centre), just beside La Mission Evangélique / Protestante I think it was. The house was a bit on the hillside and was slowly sliding down – had a few cracks in the floor and so, but if its still there, you should have a look at the place.

    I think it was rented through Issam at the hotel. He should also be able to tell you of anywhere else that is up for rent (a lebanese family own the hotel, they all grew up in Gaoua and speak Lobiri, and Issam is a builder and knows what properties are available). Prices could have gone up a lot though as when I was there there were 3 Europeans in town and I think the number has increased since then. I should give you my mail actually (click on my name) because I’ll surely be in Gaoua at some stage next year and we could meet up for a Bra-Kina or so.

  • 6countyprod

    Young Fogey,

    Bobo would be quite out of the way from the beaches of Ghana, and maybe not worth the effort if there was nothing special taking place at the time (cultural festivals, African nation’s football, etc). Ouaga is a little more accessible, and also very friendly.

    If you make it to Senegal, don’t miss the trip to Goree Island, just off the coast of Dakar. It was used as the last staging post for many of the Africans who were sent into slavery in the Americas and Europe. I felt quite ashamed, although the Senegalese are now benefiting from the tourist interest. Another beautiful place near Dakar is the Pink Lake, where salt is gathered for export.

    Where ever you go, I sure you will have a great time.