Some of the saddest and most disturbing reasons for Africa’s continued poverty are the EU’s policies. My mother was from Sierra Leone so I hope you will forgive me being passionate about Africa. I'm disgusted that both the Common Agricultural Policy and EU trade tariffs keep African farmers poor and use taxpayers’ money to do it.
Continental European farmers are subsidised to produce more food than we can eat, distorting the global food market. African farmers cannot compete and are forced into subsistence farming, where one bad season brings economic ruin and a couple of bad seasons means starvation. Far from levelling the playing field, the EU reinforces the structural inequalities that favour big businesses and powerful countries at the expense of developing nations.
We can put a sticking plaster over our collective guilt through aid payments and charitable giving. But the only sustainable and effective way of lifting people out of poverty is buying their stuff, buying the produce that they grow and they develop. If we don’t, then we are condemning them to prolonged poverty.
Tariffs mean that in 2014 the whole of Africa made just under $2.4 billion from coffee exports, while Germany made $3.8 billion. Germany made more money from coffee without growing a single bean than a whole continent which grows vast amounts.
Germany’s coffee producers need cheap, raw beans to make money, so there is no import tariff on green, unprocessed coffee. That’s why the vast bulk of African coffee exports are unprocessed. But there are import tariffs on processed coffee because it is in the processing, branding, packaging and marketing that Germany makes its money. These tariffs protect it from African competition. It’s the same story with cocoa. This is protectionism, pure and simple.
There is also a knock on effect. What is the point in investing in a coffee processing plant or chocolate factory in Africa if the end product is so heavily penalized by the EU? Africa needs the development of middle tier industries, agricultural processing, packaging and distribution. But investment in these sectors is currently unappealing because it is exactly that processing function that is penalised by tariffs. The EU’s tariff regime disincentivises exactly the kind of investment that Africa needs to lift itself out of poverty and aid dependency.
But why should we care? Perhaps you feel that Africa’s problems are for Africans to deal with and are not our concern. Well I can’t agree. If I can’t appeal to your heart, let me appeal to your wallets:
You are paying for this. The £350 million we send to the EU every week is helping it to keep some of the poorest people in the world in poverty. The EU is using YOUR money to do it. Our farmers are being taxed to subsidise their competitors to keep African farmers in poverty. It's indefensible.
I cannot understand how anyone who is African, or of African heritage, or who cares about Africa and her people, or cares about anyone trapped in poverty in the developing world, can, with a clear conscience, allow this situation to persist.
We need to tell as many people as possible that a vote to Leave is also a vote to help some of the world’s poorest people. The EU won’t change because it doesn’t see the need to. But Britain isn’t like that. Not the Britain I know. Not the Britain I love. That is why I will vote to leave the EU and that is why I urge you to do the same.
James Cleverly is the Member of Parliament for Braintree and a GLA Conservative Assembly Member. He is also the Deputy Chairman of the CWF Parliamentary Board.