Posted by: DCox | March 30, 2009

Aid to Africa…to their benefit?

Why Foreign Aid Is Hurting Africa by DAMBISA MOYO [Wall Street Journal – March 21]
Money from rich countries has trapped many African nations in a cycle of corruption, slower economic growth and poverty. Cutting off the flow would be far more beneficial, says Dambisa Moyo.

africa-aid-mobutuA month ago I visited Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. This suburb of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is home to more than one million people, who eke out a living in an area of about one square mile — roughly 75% the size of New York’s Central Park. It is a sea of aluminum and cardboard shacks that forgotten families call home. The idea of a slum conjures up an image of children playing amidst piles of garbage, with no running water and the rank, rife stench of sewage. Kibera does not disappoint.

What is incredibly disappointing is the fact that just a few yards from Kibera stands the headquarters of the United Nations’ agency for human settlements which, with an annual budget of millions of dollars, is mandated to “promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all.” Kibera festers in Kenya, a country that has one of the highest ratios of development workers per capita. This is also the country where in 2004, British envoy Sir Edward Clay apologized for underestimating the scale of government corruption and failing to speak out earlier.

Giving alms to Africa remains one of the biggest ideas of our time — millions march for it, governments are judged by it, celebrities proselytize the need for it. Calls for more aid to Africa are growing louder, with advocates pushing for doubling the roughly $50 billion of international assistance that already goes to Africa each year. (read the rest of the article)

One of the things we don’t immediately understand when we hear about foreign aid is that it really falls into three main categories: 1) relief, 2) rehabilitation, and 3) development. When a diaster like the tsunami that hit Aceh Indonesia in December 2004 occurs, other nations need to be ready to provide relief and rehabilitation aid when invited to do so by the affected country. Relief provides for immediate basic human needs like food and medical care in the short term. Rehabilitation occurs as shelter is rebuilt and other infrastructure is repaired/restored; this occurs in the months following a disaster.

Development is a long-term approach to assist others. It can build or reinforce dependence or it can empower others. Billions of dollars from donor nations have had limited results. Here’s some factors are critical to success…

  • Empowering leaders at the community level to mobilize their communities
  • Mobilizing communities to identify their resources and problems
  • Mobilizing communities to take initiative and ownership in addressing their problems
  • Accountability
  • Recognize that solving problems requires an integrated approach across disciplines; it’s often inadequate to create separate paralllel programs to address complex problems
  • Partnering with nationals and recognizing they are the experts with regard to their village and culture
  • Training of trainers (local leaders) to work with non-literate adults in ways that value and draw from their experience
  • Encourage family financial security by providing microfinance schemes and options for adding value to basic commodities

  • We condemn the largacy and corruption of many African leaders and rightfully so. However, as we judge the misuse of funds we do so from our cultural perspective. Patronage is valued by Africans and has historically worked to preserve family groups and communities. During times of family crisis it has been acceptable for an African man to ask for and expect the sharing of resources belonging to others. At least that’s the way we look at resources – as belonging to an individual or nuclear family. What if ownership was conceived of in a different way?

    Like all good ideas, patronage, has been twisted beyond the point of abuse. The leaders of nations have used it to provide favors leaving other indebted and salting away resources targeted for wider distribution.

    african-friends-and-money-mattersA good read on how Africans view and use money is found in the book, African Friends and Money Matters, by David Maranz.


    1. We decry the corruption of Africa and miss our own. Corruption is everywhere. We tend to see another’s corruption, and miss our own. I am sure this is similar in Africa. People often say that whatever their corruption is, as pointed out by an outsider, is the way to do business. Transformation needs to happen everywhere. The process that you laid out can happen in any of our business’s, organizations and homes. Each of us need to begin to look for the corruption in and around us. What are we blind to? Jesus, heal us of our blindness, help each of us to see.


    %d bloggers like this: