Africa, The continent people call home, has wept over the years and is still crying today for the development of its people, sectors, government and communities. Far away from its “desert” land it sees the land of greens and wishes to be like that though in its presumed desert are hidden treasures of gold, diamond, oil, cocoa ; it has all it take to be a better green. The West, the green land can hear cries of the deserted and with much pity and love it flies of from the green give aid to make the desert a better desert. Though this seems to be the trend for more than an entire generation, the desert is no greener but instead, all oasis are drying up and life is becoming more unbearable. Therefore the million dollar question is; is it Aid or AIDS?
Foreign aid, a highly controversial topic in the African context, is the financial or material assistance received by a country from other countries, world organization and non-profit making organization with or without conditional ties. Over the years, Africa has strategically depended on the supposed benevolence of various countries in Europe for various purposes. The appeal of African government for aid is either to finance a budget deficit, provide public goods, solve epidemics and pandemics and rise to development from the detriment of wars. Africa has become the center of attraction for the aid industry. European government, the Bretton woods institutions and celebrities are tirelessly and rigorously seeking to help Africa with aid at every point in time to the extent that Africans are convinced about the necessity of aid on the continent.
It would be prejudicial and biased to assume and say that aid never ever benefited Africa in any way. In 1995, United Kingdom through aid helped to provide potable water to 78,000 people in Mozambique. Similarly, Ghana by declaring itself as a HIPC received about 2,000,210 cedis in aid to offset a huge chunk of its debt. Many humanitarian aid have fed starving citizenry in drought and war stricken countries in Africa with Somalia and Sudan being contemporary examples. Aid has helped to manage the greatest killer disease in Africa, Malaria through the provision of treated mosquito nets and anti-malarial medications. Though aid has seemly benefitted Africa, it is argued that it has done more harm than good hence accounting for Africa’s present stifled economy.
The AIDS of Foreign Aid
The description of the hypothetical example of HIV/AIDS is not far from what we see as aids to Africa. When a person is infected with the hideous HIV, the virus gradually but steadily eats up the immune system of the body till it makes it completely dysfunctional, thus, unable to fight against diseases that attacks the body. At this stage, the person is pronounced to have contracted AIDS – a sure route to the grave. Similarly, the infiltration of aid into the African economy results in a joyous nodding by African government to the “free money” at their disposal. Already haunted down by the plague of non-accountability to their citizenry, mismanagement of the grants received becomes the norm thus breeding corruption; a canker which has overwhelmed African economies for ages. The concentration of capital and money in the hands of a few rich and influential persons widens the inequality gap in society. All these fight against the immunity of a country that is its economy and makes it weak; thus stifling productivity and making institution and systems ineffective. This culminates in a pathetic dependence on more aid; what we would like to call the “21st century colonialism”. At this state, the economy is pronounced to have contracted the hypothetical AIDS heading towards death – economic dysfunction and meltdown.
Is Aid really meant to help?
What stake does the West have in giving aid to Africa? Do you think that the west genuinely wants Africa to develop to their standard and even better? In Africa, all we can export is our raw mineral and agricultural resources at very low prices usually dictated by the West and after these resources are processed, buy them at completely exorbitant prices from the West. In such a situation what do you think a genuine desire to help would be? Is it to give aid to increase our raw material exports or to have a direct partnership or investment in Africa to groom the continent to export processed goods just like ‘they’ do? Apart from their reasoning that Africa are hopeless without aid, why is the West overly persistent in giving aid to Africa? We are just wondering; is aid meant to cause Africa to rise and be independent or to sit in despair and hope against hope for help from their neo-colonial master?
Africa, wean yourself from aid!
If aid, over the years has been unable to solve the harsh problems of poverty and underdevelopment in Africa then there must be a more suitable alternative available. According to Dambisa Moyo, the way forward to development in Africa is foreign direct investment and investment in capital market. (Moyo, 2012). We think that African government must gradually wean itself off aid to a point where it can stand absolutely as an economic giant without support or foreign aid. Our belief in gradual aid cut offs does not suggest that humanitarian aid in times of extreme desperation like natural disasters are included in the cut off list. Aid cuts willbreed necessity which will foster innovation by government on the continent to raise capital, effectively manage funds and build a stronger economy for its people. Aids received by Ghana for example, can be practical teaching/directions tailored at providing effective Ghanaian developed mechanisms for agriculture, improving agro and mineral processing to add value to exports. Democratic reforms structured to form effective institutions and accountable governments would be a better foundation to great economic revolution. President Aboulaye Wade of Senegal once said “I’ve never seen a country develop itself through aid or credit. Countries that have developed — in Europe, America, Japan, Asian countries like Taiwan, Korea and Singapore — have all believed in free markets. There is no mystery there. Africa took the wrong road after independence.” (Ayodele, Cudjoe, Nolutshungu, & Sunwabe, 2005).
Does Africa need aid? If it does, for what? If for development, how long will it continue to need it? If it will need it forever, then is it really aid or dependence?
Moyo, D. (2009) Dead aid: why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa Vancouver: Douglas & Mcintyre.
Ayodele, T., Cudjoe, F., Nolutshungu, T. A. & Sunwabe, C. K. (2005). African Perspectives on Aid: Foreign Assistance Will Not Pull Africa Out of Poverty. Cato InstituteEconomic Development Bulletin. Retrieved 15 March 2014 from http://www.cato.org/publications/economic-development-bulletin/african-perspectives-aid-foreign-assistance-will-not-pull-africa-out-poverty
Leticia Otubea Opoku and Dorcas Amoh Mensah