By Aaron Sikombe.
Aid is money, food, medical care etc, which is given to help countries in difficult situations (Oxford 2011). There are three main forms of aid, economic, humanitarian, and emergency aid. The Time Magazine (2010) says aid money contributes up to 40 per cent of most African countries national budgets; it also goes on to say that African has received over 500 billion dollars in economic aid, in the past 50 years. Africa is not the only region that has been on aid yet as others rise from this malignant vice Africa’s dependence on aid keeps getting stronger. The Marshall Plan for example was the European Recovery Program ( ERP) the primary plan of the United States for rebuilding and creating a stronger foundation for the allied countries of Europe after World War II. The Marshall Plan offered the same aid to European countries; the plan was in operation for four years beginning in July 1947. During that period 13 billion US dollars in economic and technical assistance were given to help the recovery of the European countries that had joined in the Organization for European Economic Co-operation. By the time the plan had come to completion, the economy of every participant nation had grown well past pre-war levels. Yet as African leaders increase the dependency on aid, I strongly believe that aid is doing more harm than good to the African continent, in so many ways. In this article I look at both the pros and cons of aid and leave you the reader to make a conclusion based on the information provided.
First of all foreign aid provides a direct solution to any crisis that may arise. The Somali crisis is just but one in a lot of other cases where Africans have failed to contain a crisis and aid givers step in to save lives of millions at the verge of death. The cries of the 13 million Somali’s for food was only responded to by aid agencies that came to their rescue. In most cases African government cannot contain such crises, mostly due to limited recourses or just poor management.
On the other hand, aid does not provide long term solutions; for instance, the famine in Somali has did not hit the region for the first time. It has been reoccurring, yet instead of providing a long lasting solution, aid agencies come in only when people start starving to death. Aid also suppresses most of the local industries in Africa, which in a way weakens African economies. In 2010 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation distributed free mosquito nets in some African countries, as good as this may sound, the mosquito nets came at a price to our economies. Due to the fact that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did not purchase the mosquito nets from local manufactures, hence the local mosquito net factories in Africa did not benefit from this. What this then creates is a vicious cycle of dependence on aid, once the mosquito nets ware out people will sit and wait for another donor.
Supporters of aid however claim that aid helps to promote good governance, as most African leaders are loyal to the donor community that provide them with the money that helps them run their countries. Yet, most of the aid comes with a lot of conditions which include how it is to be spent and if aid agencies sight any infringement in human rights they cut the flow of aid to that particular nation. This was the case in Zimbabwe when the political leaders disregarded the rights of the citizens, aid agencies quickly pulled out.
I also feel that aid can encourage misguided polices at national level. Due to dependency on aid governments make polices that are not based on economic development. (The BBC 2006) reports that in Ethiopia famers are not allowed to own land to farm on and possibly alleviate the food shortages it that area. Instead of introducing reforms the government continues to appeal for aid, when they can bring about a long lasting solution.
The African Union, an organization of African nations, estimated that corruption was costing the continent $150 billion a year, as international donors were apparently turning a blind eye to the simple fact that aid money was carelessly used, (Moyo 2010). It is clear that most of the aid money just ends up in the pockets of greedy leaders. If most of the aid ends up in the hands of corrupt leaders then is clear that the current aid model is not working.
Looking on the bright side, aid organisations bring expatriates into African countries, who in turn pass on their knowledge and skills to Africans. When aid organisations deliver aid in any form they come with expert in that particular filed to help them access the problem. As they leave, they pass down the expertise to the locals so that they can provide solutions when similar problems arise.
However, aid organisations paint a negative picture of Africa to the world and because of this negative publicity people think of Africa as a place filled with starving children, poverty stricken people, where AIDS is just as common as the average flu. Due to the negative publicity investors tend to shy away from investing their money in a continent that is depicted in such a way. The other cause of concern is the fraudulent use of funds by bogus organisations collecting money in the name of helping Africa.
In conclusion, the current aid model for Africa has failed on its face as most of the goals set have not been achieved. Aid has for a long time now been a life line for many African nations. However, even as African leaders put aid first; it is doing more harm than good to the continent of Africa in numerous ways.