Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When subsidising the wealthy is charity

Millions of pounds of British aid money to tackle poverty overseas has been invested in builders of gated communities, shopping centres and luxury property in poor countries, the Guardian can reveal. Wholly owned by the Department for International Development (DfID), CDC invests in private companies with the stated aim of reducing poverty in developing countries. Its investments count as aid and DfID is its sole shareholder. CDC has investments in construction and property across sub-Saharan Africa from Ghana to Zambia as well as in India. Many projects appear to cater to the elite.

In Kenya, $25m has been put into a 13-hectare (32-acre) mega-development in Nairobi called Garden City with hundreds of upmarket flats, a business hotel and what will be east Africa's largest shopping centre.  A glossy brochure for Garden City in Nairobi, which includes 400-plus flats and townhouses, boasts: "From the aquamarine water of the heated swimming pool to the ultra-modern fitted kitchen, solid bamboo flooring and glass balcony balustrades, quality is the defining characteristic of the Garden City Village."

In Mauritius, more than $24m has gone to a developer whose portfolio includes a 170-hectare "aspirational ocean lifestyle village", with luxury beachfront homes from $500,000 and an elite boarding school managed by the Berkshire-based Wellington College. A brochure for Azuri, a development for the CDC-backed Indian Ocean Real Estate Company, invites would-be residents to "Close your eyes and imagine yourself breathing in the warm Indian ocean breeze, absorbing all that the Mauritian lifestyle has to offer." Azuri offers "exquisite, high-quality living" with an expansive oceanfront resort, five-star hotel, yacht club and spa – "the ideal living environment to promote both bodily and spiritual happiness".

In addition to upscale residential developments, CDC has millions invested in shopping centres across sub-Saharan Africa, including the huge Jabi Lake mall in Abuja, Nigeria,which aims to "meet the desires of sophisticated Nigerians wanting a compelling retail experience with leisure facilities and high-quality brands". In Nigeria investments also include two Protea hotels – part of a chain recently bought by Marriott International – including one in Lagos at which rooms booked online start at $400 a night.

Nick Dearden, director of the World Development Movement, accused the government of exporting a "highly financialised, highly unequal, highly ideological form of 'development' which helps big business, not ordinary people. If you live in a slum in Nairobi, seeing development money pouring into a luxury block of flats is an insult."

In Kenya, Dereje Alemayehu, Christian Aid's east Africa country manager, said hotels and shopping centres could not be considered neglected economic sectors. "There are already more than enough such facilities for tourists, expats and the relatively large national middle class."

Does anyone seriously believe this Government is interested helping the poor in Africa for example when it is so dismissive of the fact that so many UK families rely on food banks?

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