Penny Wise, Pound Foolish: a Counter-Productive Philosophy

Christ with with Abbot Mena Egyptian Icon

The UK antenna of the AEFJN held an event in November in which the International Secretariat of the network in Brussels participated.  The theme of the event was: IT’S NOW OR NEVER; CARING FOR CREATION, CARING FOR HUMANITY.  Among other things, it was an occasion to awaken greater sensitivity to the potential implications of an unambitious outcome of COP21 for Africa and the global community, ranging from food insecurity and malnutrition in the global south to a new wave of migration, terrorism and insecurity in the global North and all forms of natural disaster occasioned by ecological disequilibrium. The antenna considers the COP21 conference which begins in Paris on November 30 to be the fight of our life in which each and every person must be involved so that the usual desires and ambitions of business corporations do not prevail again at the expense of creation and humanity.


The Secretariat representative listened with keen interest as speakers took their turns to express their anger and indignation at the past failures of governments to come up with an ambitious commitment to mitigate climate change, a situation which has made the UN a perpetual lame duck. What was evident was the lack of sincerity on the part of the national governments of the global North to deal with the challenges of climate change. They have shown in the past two decades of these negotiations to be more interested in their national interests than addressing the global common good, hoping that the gods of Technology and the Financial Market have the magic key to every problem of the world. It is yet to break into the consciousness of the global north that the migration crisis, waves of terrorism, other forms of social crisis and environmental crisis are products of the same unjust economic structures. It is a particular case of being penny-wise and pound-foolish, massaging effects rather dealing with root causes.


At a recent meeting between the EU and the African leaders in Malta to find a lasting solution to the migration crisis, the EU once more betrayed this whole attitude of being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Nkwazi Mhanga observed accurately that the meeting began on a very wrong premise because more people from Asia and Eastern Europe are migrating to the EU than from Africa. Nevertheless, what the AEFJN considers most debasing to the human dignity of the African was the EU’s offer of $2 billion to the 50 or more countries of the continent if they would release the magic formula that would bring migration to a stop – and this while the African leaders were demanding that the EU should redress the trade imbalance that has characterized the relationship between the two continents and is at the root of migration. Meanwhile, Germany alone is already spending 20 billion euro and is prepared to spend a further 16 billion to deal with the refugee crisis. Our speculation at AEFJN is that the offer of $2 billion is the EU’s characteristic way of massaging African leaders so the EU’s looting machine for African resources will continue unabated.


In a similar vein, the EU would consider giving trade development aid to Nigeria  if the latter assented to the EPA as against a more just trade agreement demanded by Nigeria so that her citizens could live a more dignified  life in Nigeria without being forced by the harsh economic conditions to seek greener pastures in Europe. The story is the same between the EU and the other countries of Africa.  The AEFJN underlines that what Africa needs from the EU is respect for our common humanity and justice in trade relations, not aid! That remains the nexus of what the AEFJN continues to demand of the EU.


Chika Onyejiuwa, CSSp


Go back