Opinion: Why foreign aid is still bad for all of us

by George Ogunbande

You keep pouring water into a leaking basket. Why? You keep helping these corrupt politicians amass wealth. Why? You keep designing failed projects that will continually keep these African countries in the dark.

There are three types of Foreign Aid…

  •              Military aid
  •              Humanitarian aid
  •              Official Development Assistance (ODA) aka foreign aid proper

Total amount of aid given to Africa, $30b.

Corruption alone costs $148bn a year. Some will argue that for the past 60 years, Africa as a continent, has received $1trillion in aid. You keep pouring water into a leaking basket. Why? You keep helping these corrupt politicians amass wealth. Why? You keep designing failed projects that will continually keep these African countries in the dark. You keep sending high protein biscuit to countries experiencing famine, expecting that these biscuits will work a fantastic miracle the next day. This is barbaric!

The Military Aid

The military aid was used by the United States until 1957 when they stopped adding it to their aid figure. The military aid is one of the most unacceptable forms of aid in present history, these aids help the dictator suppress its people and its aspiration for freedom.  For instance, the uprising in Egypt; the government used various military tanks to oppress the people and they were killed in this process.  These military tanks were gotten from the international community.

Military aid like NATO were sent to Libya on March19, 2011, you will all agree with me that the main reason why this was done was to kill or bring to justice the regime of Moammar Gadhafi who had been ruling for 42years (1969-2011). Innocent citizens were killed in this process. There were some deliberate missile attacks on citizens in the pretence of targeting Gadhafi. So many atrocities were committed by the NATO forces in which UN felt it was acceptable because of one man.

The Humanitarian aid

Material or logistic assistance provided for human purposes are often provided during natural disaster, wars and famine; which is also known as man-made disaster.  When this happens, the international communities, rush in with rescue materials like blanket, high protein biscuits and so on until they feel they have received enough, then they move on to another country.

Honestly I don’t blame them because, our dictators have become adamant to either relinquish power or share the power with the opposition. Dictatorship has crippled the African continent, thereby making the people dependent on aids. For example the Somalia famine in 2011, millions of people across East Africa were affected by one of the worst food crises in recent memory. Somalia was hit the hardest. On 20th of July, the UN formally declared famine in two regions of Southern Somalia – Southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle. Two months later, it increased that number to six. The UN officially declared the famine over in February 2012, but warned that millions are still in need of assistance.

The problem with this aid is that the donors do not care about the region. Their aim is to dump what they have planned and designed for the people, whether it is relevant at that point in time or not. For example; in the late 1990s, late 1970s the Norwegians went to Kenya to help the Turkana tribe people. They built a fish freezing plant for them, when they finished the plant, they discovered that the Turkana tribes do not fish; rather, they raise goats. Ask before you help, don’t just design and dump things into their lap as if they don’t have a choice, because they do.

Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Official development assistance (ODA) is a term coined by the Development of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to measure aid. The DAC first used the term in 1969. It is widely used by academics and journalists as a convenient indicator of international aid flow. It includes some loans given to these countries for assistance. This is the best aid amongst the three. Loans are given to these nations to help improve certain sectors of their economy, thereby providing jobs, and various infrastructures for the benefit of all.

 ODA TO AFRICA – SUMMARY

Top 10 ODA receipts by recipient

USD million , net disbursements in 2010

1 Ethiopia                                    3 529                      7%
2 Congo, Dem. Rep.                     3 413                      7%
3 Tanzania                                   2 961                      6%
4 Nigeria                                      2 069                      4%
5 Sudan                                       2 055                      4%
6 Mozambique                              1 959                      4%
7 Uganda                                     1 730                      4%
8 Ghana                                      1 694                       4%
9 Kenya                                      1 631                       3%
10 Liberia                                    1 423                       3% 

Other recipients                          25,469                      53%
Total                                                47 932                    100%

Top 10 ODA receipts by donors
USD million , net disbursements in 2010

1 United States                          7 763                     16%
2 EU institutions                      5 443                      11%
3 IDA                                            5 196                      11%
4 France                                      4 187                       9%
5 United Kingdom                  3 075                       6%
6 Germany                                 1 948                        4%
7 Global Fund                          1 914                        4%
8 Japan                                       1 888                        4%
9 AfDF                                         1 760                       4%
10 Canada                                  1 532                         3%
Other donors                          13 226                      28% 

Total                                           47 932                    100%

Source: http://www.oecd.org

One solution we can review in the continent is to speed up the private sector, and improve the industrial sector. Aid kills entrepreneurship, and foreign investment. When we build our private sector, industrial sector and small scale business, it will provide jobs, and more foreign investments in the continent.

Take for example the local mosquito net manufacturer in Africa. It is unfair when celebrities decide to dump free mosquito nets to Africa whereby putting the mosquito net manufacturer out of business, and when the mosquito net manufacturer goes bankrupt, no one will be available to fix the nets. What they should do is invest in that local manufacturer’s business, which in turn will promote employment for a lot of people.

We should note that sitting and waiting for donors to the African continent is not sustainable. Governments should have a contingency plan to assist in providing public goods to the people. What will happen if these NGOs are not able to send any aid again to the region? What will happen to those people that have terribly relied on foreign aid for their sustainability? The African government should make plans on how to judiciously use the money gotten from these NGOs to promote sustainability in all sectors necessary.

In a book ‘Dead Aid’ written by Dabisa Moyo, an Economics Professor from Zambia, wrote that aid causes dependency, corruption, and plutocracy, and a situation where it can kill the export sector. For example, China, South Africa, Botswana are emerging markets where the ‘no aid’ policies have worked. They have protected their markets, and lived independently. Why do you think Barack Obama kept refusing offers from other countries to help clean up the oil spill? The truth is that cleaning up oil spills is not rocket science. At this point he seemed to be very careful on how to accept aids from other countries. Why can’t we be very careful too? The international community seem to be patient with receiving aids from other countries, why can’t the African continent be?

Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif said “It is time to break the begging bowl and achieve self-reliance in the interest of complete independence’’. ‘The decision to give up foreign aid does not mean that relations with other countries should be impaired, this decision is aimed at the promotion of trade instead of aid.” If the nation wants to live with honour and dignity it would have to revisit its priorities. If the African continent decides to depend on its own resources and works with sincerity and commitment, we can also achieve self-reliance like China, Japan or Germany.

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George Ogunbande is based in Canada, runs a blog called www.changeandrevolution.com which celebrates Africa, African politics and afropreneurship.

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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