Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Eight women, one voice.

"In July, eight men representing the major industrialised nations of the world - the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia - will meet at Gleneagles for the G8 summit. Their decisions will have huge implications for millions of people living in poverty in Africa. Here in words and pictures, South African photographer Gideon Mendel, profiles eight women who's lives have been profoundly affected by some of the key issues the G8 has the power to control - HIV/AIDS treatment, water privatisation, debt, the free market. Their lives are very different but they all want one thing - and end to poverty and unfair trade in Africa. "

The pictures of the eight African women and their stories can be seen here.

I think it's important to understand the context of the global capitalist system and how brutally unfair it is. What is this bullshit about "free" trade? According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), its 30 member nations spent $279.5 billion, or nearly 226 billion euros, on farm supports, up from $256.7 billion in 2003. That doesn't even begin to cover the billions of dollars additionally spent on tariffs. What is this system that demands free trade from developing countries and yet continues to protect it's own markets? What is this system that blames all of Africa's problems on corruption, yet doesn't take into account the destruction of livelihoods and the ensuing poverty that the current form of globalisation is imposing on the developing world?

Aid and loans are tied up to conditions such as structural adjustment which means local government's have to cut back spending on healthcare and education, enforces water and other privatisation and trade "liberalisation". As the libertians among us have pointed out, aid is a system that is wide open to abuse and corruption. Why not then allow for a free trade system that will enable poor people to benefit directly from local agricultural production bypassing government intervention in the aid/loan distribution process?

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