Speaking at The Sedona Forum, where he appeared virtually with former Arizona GOP senator Jeff Flake, Democratic congresswoman Karen Bass of California, and the late senator John McCain’s wife Cindy McCain, actor Ben Affleck insisted his own “search for humility” forced him “to recognize that we have our own governance issues in this country before we cast aspersions on the governance of others.” He also stated “the countries that are run primarily by women, societies that are run by women tend to prosper more. ”
The title of the discussion for the panel was “Africa: Innovation, Investment, and Opportunity.”
Affleck was prompted by Flake, who asked, “What are you advocating for, both in the Congo and elsewhere?”
One of the things that I’m advocating, most broadly, is to develop a different perception of Africa. If you have any real value in terms of being able to use a microphone or loudspeaker and project to a large group of people, it’s to help share your understanding with them. It may be a little too complex to explain to a broader audience but I will mention here that this notion that we’ve thrown a lot of aid at Africa and nothing’s worked is a profound and dishonest way of looking at the situation. What Europe and North America have in fact done is extracted a great deal of wealth from Africa, disenfranchised Africans, oppressed them. Even in Congo, for example, the only country ever owned, owned by a human being, which [sic] is King Leopold, in the 1900s, during which the ownership period of which country 10 million Congolese died, and the gigantic amount of wealth in terms of rubber was extracted for advancement in terms of the economy of Europe during the Industrial Revolution, that alone so far dwarfs all the aid ever spent on Africa in its history.
So it’s extremely disingenuous to suggest that somehow we’re frittering all this money and we’re not doing anything with it. That’s just dishonest. What we’ve done historically, and what we continue to do — and when I say “we,” I mean the Chinese, who are making unfair deals with the Africans to extract minerals today, or the Russians, and so forth, that historically, this kind of exploitation is in fact what has continued to happen. A small amount of aid has been spent, granted, some of it spent not very well.
“This is not a hopeless place, and by the way, my faith compels me to try to seek humility, and in the search for humility, I have to recognize that we have our own governance issues in this country before we cast aspersions on the governance of others,” Affleck continued. “There is no country that is immune to corruption or to people who seek power at the expense of what is right. And therefore I think it is really not an effective argument to say you can’t deal with this country because there’s poor leadership because what if we have poor leadership? Should we then be abandoned? Should we give up on ourselves?”
Flake asked Affleck if he testified before Congress as he has previously done about Africa, “What would you say are its biggest challenges and where should the United States be spending its time and resources?”
“I would say, for one thing, I would be very grateful to be invited; I would invite as many members of Congress to come and visit Africa and see for themselves what works and what doesn’t,” Affleck replied. “And I think they would find and see the ways that American taxpayer dollars are being spent and how they’re being spent effectively and how they’re being spent ineffectively. I think that, in and of itself, would be quite revelatory.”
He concluded, “I would, lastly, encourage Congress to be thoughtful and really examine what has worked and what hasn’t, and look at what models may work well in the future and I would encourage them to stay involved and I would tell them that I’m going to continue to try to build a constituency around people who are interested in this topic, and cultivate other people to do so. And it has been my honor to be inspired by Ms. McCain, and I will continue to work in the vein in the way she has diligently and on behalf, largely, of women who I have to say, I don’t know what this says about us men, but it is factually correct that women, the countries that are run primarily by women, societies that are run by women tend to prosper more. So, well, there you have it.”
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