TCS Daily

Lady Madonna, Children at Your Feet

By Richard Tren - October 26, 2006 12:00 AM

Yohane Banda, the father of Madonna's newly adopted son, David, has thanked the pop diva for rescuing his son from "poverty and disease." However recent news reports have suggested that Mr. Banda was not fully aware of the implications of the adoption and that he would prefer to have his son nearby where he can see him and be able to take him back when his circumstances improve. The whole affair raises many questions about the role that westerners should play in helping Africa to develop. It also raises questions about the role of high profile celebrities that have taken on African causes - the current track record of celebrity Africa-philes leaves much room for improvement.

Madonna currently funds six orphanages in Malawi and according to the BBC she has plans for another orphanage that will care for 4000 children. Whether Madonna has shown an interest in African orphans as a result of some new found Chabalistic spirituality or simply out of a natural human instinct to want to care for those less fortunate than herself is neither here nor there; children in Malawi are probably better off for her help. Certainly David Banda will be materially better off and his health will undoubtedly be better; wherever Madonna takes him, he will have safe drinking water, plenty of food and will not be bitten by deadly Anopheles mosquitoes.

But there are several other things that Madonna could do to improve the lives of ordinary Africans - and it wouldn't involve adopting the entire continent. For a start she could lend her support to the World Health Organization's new policies on malaria control. David Banda's two siblings both died of malaria, joining more than a million young Africans that succumb to the disease every year. The WHO is now calling for increased indoor spraying with insecticides such as DDT. Even though this method of control is safe for humans and the environment, many environmentalists continue campaigning against it. A timely message from Madonna on the topic might help convince people that it makes sense. It is depressing that people would sooner believe a celebrity on this topic than scientists, but welcome to the 21st century.

And if really cares about Africans, she can go much further. Depressingly, Malawi is one of the least free economies in the world. According to the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of the World index, Malawi is ranked 116 out 130 countries. With the exception of a handful of countries, almost all of the least economically free countries in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa. It is little wonder then that while most of the world has been growing richer, enjoying improved health and increased life expectancies, African countries have been in reverse.

David Banda will certainly grow up healthy and well educated, but what is less certain is whether he will want to return to Malawi. At a recent forum at the Cato Institute in Washington DC, Ugandan journalist and political commentator Andrew Mwenda pointed out that educated Africans were abandoning Africa out of sheer disgust with the political leaders that have presided over the continuous impoverishment and desperation of the continent. So if David Banda turns out like other educated Africans, including this author, he will prefer to remain in the West where he can achieve more and develop his full potential.

Andrew Mwenda is uncompromising in his criticism of African leaders and unwavering in laying the blame for Africa's trouble at their feet. Yet he is also uncompromising in his criticism of western governments that have continually funded bad governments in Africa. Much donor aid and World Bank loans have exacerbated and perpetuated poverty in Africa by giving governments entirely the wrong set of incentives. Donor aid and World Bank loans reward the incompetence and corruption of the political elite. As long as African leaders maintain economic policies that frustrate private enterprise and wealth creation, they will always be able to get donor aid, to which they are addicted. It is much harder to raise government revenue from a domestic tax base, which would require the hard work of economic reform. Ensuring that African governments are more self-sustaining would mean that they would actually have to answer to their own citizens; something that history shows they are loathe to do.

Madonna is probably the most versatile pop icon. She has reinvented herself time and again and expertly always gives her fans exactly what they want. Madonna is a classic iconoclast and never seems to shy away from controversy. She now has an outstanding opportunity to attack the current wisdom on donor aid. She could use her power to take on the "aid bwanas" and her celebrity colleagues.

For the sake of millions of Africans, let's hope she takes the celebrity path less traveled and actually does something helpful for ordinary Africans and not something helpful for the elites that rule Africa. Her publicists and advisers may argue against this, but being a mother carries with it certain responsibilities. If she takes her role seriously and wants David Banda to return to a country worth living in, she would do it.

Richard Tren is a director of the health advocacy group Africa Fighting Malaria and is based in Washington DC.



modonna's kid
Here's my bet for the black kid madonna recently bought from its father. Instead of us later seeing him serving as an intern with doctors without borders, or in some aids clinic in the slums of Malawi, we can be pretty sure other spoint brats of celebrity flakes will be sipping champagne cocktails with him on the Cote d'Azur. Some will see him in the gambling dens of Monaco, others will notice him catching an opening on the West End. Maybe we will hook up with one of Mick Jaggers grandaughts of Bianca. If not, he might buy his own fiefdom in Malawi and join in on ripping off the aid projects.

Dietmar's brain (or lack of)
Your comments are even more fetid than the delusional prognostications you conjure.

Maybe the kid will become a doctor and save your grandkid with bypass surgery due to his/her extreme obesity.

Odds are better that Dietmar is right
And you know it.

What has become to the children of other "celebrities"?
Very few have turned out well.

Odds are that you are just to full of hate to recognize the truth when you don't want to see it.

Whereas adoting a child may not be wrong in most cases, the way Madonna did it reminds us of child trafficking from the African Continent to the West. Madonna should have followed the Malawian laid down laws which require that the one adopting a child should stay in Malawi for atleast 18 months in order for the Malawian authorities to know more about the adoptor. If not she should have continued to assist the baby for the next 18 months while observations are made. However a one day meeting with the father sealed the deal!!! It reminds us of two Zambian nationals who had 'adopted' 25 children from Malawi into Zambia, but were stopped at the boarder, prosecuted for child trafficking and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment. Here is a celebrity doing the same and the Malawi authorities think the laws can be waived. What should be known is that whether one is a celebrity or a remote village farmer, laws should apply equally to both. And the British authorities should not accept a foreigner without proper documents to stay in their country, otherwise they are playing double standards and encouraging child trafficking. - Leotcs

Malawi's laws
Malawi's laws, just like the laws in most african countries mean that if you're rich, and/or have connections, then the law is whatever you want it to be. Re slavery, they don't have it anymore 'de jure', but just have it 'de facto'.

my brain
Maybe then you then it will turn out OK like Paris Hilton, or Kofe Anan's son, the son of the UN chief, the one who scamed form them. Or maybe he'll turn out like Papa Docs's kid, Baby Doc.

We can all throw out names of celebrities' kids that have been in trouble with the law or otherwise annoy us with their superficial behavior. Now thats a solid argument.

By the same token, shall we conclude all Republicans are corrupt sexual deviants because of Foley, Cunningham and Abramhoff? No? Right, bring up Democrat names to deflect this horrible smear, that'll prove Republicans aren't corrupt sexual deviants.

Do any of you know what percentage of celebrity offspring get in trouble compared to how many are good people? Any idea? No? Neither do I. In other words, we're all ignorant about this, but that hasn't stopped you from pulling the trigger when the gun is aimed at one of your targets. Hollywood.

You've learned about a few scofflaws from the elite liberal media (right?), you've chosen Hollywood as your enemy, so now all you have to do is make the attacks. Like seemingly everything else with the right, doesn't matter how much you know and what reality is, you attack. Its like you're only looking through the scope, you don't see everything around it.

Pauled, my first instinct is to agree with you, I almost posted as much. Then I realized, all we really know about is when celebrities get in trouble. We don't hear so much about when they're good citizens, or at least not doing bad things. None of us really knows the big picture.

Besides, why should we care? Well, I know why you guys care, so you can spout how you're morally superior and thumb your nose at Hollywood. What a lack of self-esteem for a group that has total power in Washington. Its not just you guys, the Bush Administration is bathing in it, I suspect thats where you guys get it. I think you realize what a failure Republican control has been, its killed your self-esteem, but not given you a sliver of humility. Reason #1,389 conservativism is a bad ideology- no self-esteem and no humility either.

But you can tick off names of scofflaw children of celebrities. Good job. You deserve a cookie.

Malawi's laws, just like Bush's laws
"...if you're rich, and/or have connections, then the law is whatever you want it to be."

In America this is literal. Corporations are actually writing our laws during the Bush Administration.

Does this mean our system is no better than Africa? I mean, I know Bush is bad, but no better than Africa? You must feel so proud to have voted for Bush. You made us as good as Africa.

is different...
In places like Malawi, you wouldn't have a guy like Bill Gates up there sweating it out in front of some congressional comittee, you wouldn't have had Martha Stewart going to jail, nor the Enron guys. Also, if corporations write the laws and have so much power, why would the oil companies allow foreign companies like BP and Citco etc. to operate in the US? Why would the big beer companies not disallow foreign beer from competing with them in the US? Why would the big car compaines allow themselves to lose so much share because of all the Toyotas etc. if they had so much power over the government. Why would big Tobacco allow so many no smoking laws? Why would big pharma allow such a long drawn out process of years to get a drug approved for sale? Why would big pharma not force the governmt to have food additives and health foods to go thru the same process with the FDA?

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