Obianuju Ekeocha, a pro-life advocate and the founder and president of Culture of Life Africa, discussed the rise of modern-day ideological colonialism in the developing world in the Eck Center Tuesday.
While imperialism in Africa is in the past, Ekeocha said in recent years Africans are seeing the return of western footprints all across the continent.
“I am speaking about the footprints of cultural imperialists, social engineers and ideological neo-colonial masters who have now presented themselves as enthusiastic donors, friends and partners in the much desired development in different African countries,” she said.
She said a number of institutions and organizations implant themselves in different developing nations in Africa proposing projects that the people of these countries have not requested.
“We have been getting aid from the international community, and yet the welfare of the people is going down and our per capita GDP is going down,” she said.
Ekeocha went on to highlight a few specific improvements she said an average African would want, including job opportunities, education reform and access to clean drinking water. Having worked in the healthcare system in Africa as a laboratory scientist, Ekeocha said accessible and affordable healthcare deserves attention as well.
“Any disease condition that requires long term or lifetime treatment or management is near impossible to manage and will therefore mean unimaginable suffering for those affected,” she said.
Although the healthcare system in many developing countries in Africa would benefit from improvements, Ekeocha said she rarely hears leaders in international forums discuss this issue in reference to Africa countries.
“The issue which dominates almost every discussion without exception is that of sexual and reproductive health and rights,” she said.
Ekeocha said she attributes the rise of the discussion of reproductive health issues to the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo, Egypt in Sept. 1994, which brought together delegates from various governments, UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations.
She said, “The outcome document of this particular UN event did lay the foundation for international donors to then become the primary providers of contraceptive drugs and devices in poorer countries.”
Following the UN conference, Ekeocha said donors exponentially increased their funding to family planning services specifically, raising it to the level of a humanitarian crisis, and the funding for family planning services has continued to increase since then.
Ekeocha said while donors often push certain reproductive health services in response to high statistics of maternal deaths in developing countries in African, she does not believe contraception or abortion solve the problem.
“The big killer is the bleeding, the hemorrhaging,” she said. “The big killer is the fact that African nations don't actually have a good enough or sustainable enough blood banking systems, national blood services from country to country.”
Shifting her conversation to a discussion on abortion, Ekeocha said she does not believe donors consider African cultural views and values when pushing their agendas, because she said she thinks the majority of Africans oppose abortion.
“Donors see the developing world as a cultural vacuum to be filled with ideas or to be cultivated with their ideologies,” Ekeocha said. “And what is more disconcerting is that they approach us from a place of perceived superiority and with high expectations of compliance by African governments.”
Ultimately, Ekeocha said ideological supremacy can strip people of their dignity under the guise of aid, and she called people to speak up against this clear violation of human rights.
“I am hoping for foreign aid to be done differently with the voices of recipients at the center of consideration, and with projects reflecting the people's real needs than the donors ideological positions,” she said.