Does Foreign aid make or mar Africa?


Post By: Vanessa Amoako and Jeanne-Barbara Esinam Debre

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Many of us were raised to abide by the rule, “sharing is caring”. Therefore, we would share our food with our friends whenever they did not have enough and we happened to have more than enough. Even though we may not have understood it then, “sharing was and is essential to maintain and protect the collective, and empathy is an essential value of what it is to be human” (Abugre, 2010)

With this mentality, we can understand why aid is given by the international body to support developing countries, especially on the African continent, as they strive to achieve economic growth and success. It is natural for rich countries to help the poorer ones to ameliorate the suffering that exists in these countries in the likes of famine, disease, low quality education, poor infrastructure, etc., because no one wants to see their fellow human being suffer from not being able to have access to what is in abundance in someone else’s life.

Foreign aid has successfully supported economic development in aid-dependent countries such as Indonesia, Korea and Thailand from the 1960s to the late 1980s in which as government expenditure financed by aid increased steadily, the countries’ economic growth and development also grew at a faster pace (Abugre, 2010) Likewise, in 1992, 69 percent of the population of Ethiopians was made up of undernourished people. However, global efforts and foreign aid, as well as the efforts of the Ethiopian government and its people, helped reduce this percentage to about 41 percent in 2012 (it continues to decrease as at today). Ethiopia has successfully used its aid to expand its economy to improve upon the living standards of its people (Falsani, 2012). Finally, millions of African children are alive and a hundred thousand more lives have been saved due to the international cooperation to fight HIV/ AIDS, malaria and measles through the provision of foreign aid (Abugre, 2010)

There is no doubt that foreign aid is a strong contributing factor to the economic growth and development in Africa. However, the methods in which aid is delivered to African nations must be reconsidered. There should be transparency in how aid is used by countries to satisfy the purpose for which the aid is given. Too often, foreign aid ends up in the pockets of corrupt government individuals quenching their insatiable thirst for wealth, while the citizens whom the aid was sent for continue to wallow in their misery until death swoops them off the earth. Effective systems for delivery of aid must be put in place to ensure that the aid goes directly to the people instead of passing through governments first. This way, we believe, will enable foreign aid contribute to making Africa instead of destroying it.  


We believe that foreign aid has done more harm than good to Africa. We are saying this because foreign aid to Africa especially from the USA is always given with one condition or the other that meets the political priorities of the country and not really for the sake of helping Africa develop. “Much of the aid provided is related to the geopolitical priorities of the donors, and does not always go to the countries that need it most… Sub-Saharan Africa could benefit much more from increased aid if strings were not attached to it.”(Gordon & Gordon, 2012). This is a major problem we have with most aid that comes to Africa; they are almost always with so many conditions that they are not really useful in the long run. With the amount of money that has been poured into Africa over the decades in the form of aid, Africa should have made significant progress in terms of development sadly this is not so.

It is about time that Africa started weaning herself from all the aid she receives from the West. This is because, even after all the aid received these western countries do not want to give African countries the chance to trade with them on equal terms. African countries are not given the chance to export finished goods to these countries; it is as though they believe we can never develop to the point where our manufacturing industry would grow. This brings to the type of relationship China wants to have with Africa, which is to trade with us as coequals and this has made the West very uncomfortable.  Dambisa Moyo made mention in her book Dead Aid that foreign aid helps perpetuate the cycle of poverty and hinders economic growth in Africa and this is because, the aid that is given is usually not effective and sometimes does not even get to those who actually need it. Foreign aid perpetuates the practice of corruption in Africa; the governments that receive the aid mostly do not send everything that is due to that particular project or the people that need it. Thus, the issue of foreign aid not helping Africa is as a result of too many conditions from the donors and the assumption that aid is all that Africa needs on one side and the mismanagement of those funds by the African governments because that money keeps coming.

If aid were stopped at once, there would be a huge crisis in Africa. Thus, aid must gradually be stopped so African leaders can start looking at other avenues for funds; like the capital markets with which the Chinese are very willing to help us. Paul Collier, in his argument for foreign aid, said, “Over-optimistic… She implies that, were aid cut, African governments would respond by turning to other sources of finance that would make them more accountable…  this exaggerates the opportunity for alternative finance and underestimates the difficulties African societies face.” (Paul Collier, Economist). Paul Collier believes that Dambisa Moyo is being biased because he is from a country that gives aid to Africa and therefore does not really understand what is really at stake in Africa. Jeffrey Sachs, Collier’s partner in the debate against foreign aid, said, “More foreign aid is needed to improve conditions for Africa”. He, like Collier, also believes that the answer to Africa’s problems is foreign aid and nothing else. It is as though all the Western countries that give aid believe that Africa may never develop, thus, aid is the only way they can get by in the many years to come. He also describes Moyo as “an African-born economist who… received scholarships so that she could go to Harvard and Oxford but sees nothing wrong with denying $10 in aid to an African child for an anti-malaria bed net.” 

Foreign aid has become an industry that NGOs, the West and Africa have bought into. There is also the issue of ‘Glamour aid’, which is the situation of Western celebrities having concerts and setting up charities all in the name of getting aid for specific issues in Africa. This, we believe, helps with their ticket sales. NGOs also stay around for longer than necessary because of the money that goes into the “Foreign aid industry” instead of training the people who are helping to become self-sufficient after a period of time. The western countries (especially the USA) involved in giving aid to Africa also seem to do this in order to gain support from the ethnic minorities in their country. This makes their government look good in the eyes of the citizens of their nation. There are times when Africa has become a reflection of the geo-politics that go on in the donor countries, since the aid is given with some conditions that meet the ideals of the donors. For example, with the issue of homosexuality in Africa, the west is trying to use the threat of cutting off aid to make these African countries that are blatantly against it succumb to their wishes, and this is the first time this has failed to be accomplished.

Finally, we believe Africa must get off the aid wagon sooner or later, because after all that money that has been put into the continent, there is nothing much to show for it.
instead we have to concentrate more on how to improve our manufacturing industries so as to trade on a better level with China and other Middle Eastern countries and not have these Westerners meddling in our business all the time.


Abugre, C. (2010, August 13). Why foreign aid is important for Africa. CNN African Voices.

Falsani, C. (2012, October 26). Ethiopia: how foreign aid has helped a generation. ONE.

Gordon, A. A., & Gordon, D. L. (2012). Understanding Contemporay Africa (Fifth ed.). Lynne Reinner Publishers, Incorporated.

Moyo, D. Dead Aid.


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