How can I help people in Africa

A few months ago, a German aid organization discussed which picture should be on the front page of its annual report. A Kenyan peasant woman with a cell phone in hand, the staff had suggested. And had raised concerns that a woman with a cell phone might not look hopeless enough and therefore not bring enough donations. So you took another photo. One that corresponds better to the image of many of Africa as poor and in need of help.

For decades, the international community has appealed to the donors to feel sorry for them, and let the bell bag for Africa go around. With increasingly drastic images and appeals that do not always necessarily correspond to the actual situation. Images and compassion wear out over time, so it always has to get worse. Even today, the development aid organizations are calling on donor countries and their citizens to make donations. But these flow only slowly, one is hardened towards the suffering of the people in Africa. After decades of emergency calls, one wonders: Why is nothing changing?

Aid organizations claim to want to support people in need above all. But for them it is also about self-preservation. Like normal companies, they want to grow, set up new branches, pay better salaries. If there was no longer any hunger, they would have to dissolve. That has never happened before. Based on this logic, there can only be more help, not less.

Certainly: aid organizations are not the basic evil that can be blamed for all undesirable developments in Africa, as is currently the fashion. They often do a good job. Yet they are also part of the problem. For decades you have conveyed an image of Africa that is permanently damaging. Africa is not generally perceived as a diverse continent with rich people - and even cars. Rather, Africa appears like a single country, chronically pitiful and in need of help.

Many Africans have also adopted this caricature, be it because they do not know it differently in their everyday life, or because it is convenient. For African politicians, the never-ending aid funds mean that they do not have to bother to build a functioning state. In Nigeria, half of all relief supplies have just been stolen. Soldiers fight for supplies in Somalia. In South Sudan, the government is diverting goods to finance their villas in Nairobi. And what is the international community doing? She may be able to bring herself to a small reprimand. And sends new relief supplies.

Take the money away from the corrupt regimes

This cycle makes the donors tired, especially in times when the soil is becoming more and more fluctuating, even in the West, and every country thinks of itself first. Development aid is in a crisis of legitimation. For years. In theory, it would therefore be worth trying to withdraw any aid from a country like South Sudan so that the citizens there begin to hold their government accountable for all the misery. In practice, one would have to starve millions of people and hope for some kind of learning effect - which is unbearable and impossible.

It would be possible, however, to control corrupt regimes more closely, to take away from them the money that they invest in the London real estate market, which they park in black money accounts. Every year more money disappears from Africa than flows into the continent. It is a paradox that the billions in development aid were, on the one hand, often a waste and, on the other hand, too little to help Africa sustainably.

German unification cost around two trillion euros for a comparatively small country with a manageable population. In contrast, the 150 billion or so that all of Africa receives every year is a joke. The donors ultimately believed the TV advertising: give two euros a month and save Africa! However, it won't be that simple. If the West really wants to help Africa, it has to give more than just some money. If you want fair trade, you have to part with one-sided advantages. If jobs are to be created there, some may be lost here.

With its new policy, the federal government is focusing on the creation of jobs and has corrected mistakes from the past - and is still making new ones. The concept is being sold as a Marshall Plan, as a quick fix. There won't be in Africa. What it takes is a determined impatience with corrupt regimes. And staying power for the people.