"Foreign assistance is far from charity," J. Brian Atwood, the USAID director under former President Clinton, told Congress in 1995. "It is an investment in American jobs, American business."
The simple task of stopping people from going hungry or falling sick is never a simple task under capitalism.The public image of foreign aid is of Western beneficence. Because it is tied with geo-politics, trade and banking, foreign aid cannot be classified purely as gift-giving. Providing assistance to Africa's poor is a noble cause, but the five decades long campaign of aid has turned out to be what one critic called “a theater of the absurd.” To-date, the record of western aid to Africa has been significant, amounting to more than $500 billion between 1960 and 1997, which is the equivalent of four Marshall Plans being pumped into Sub-Saharan African. And today, the national budgets of most Sub-Saharan African countries are dependent on foreign aid for up to eighty percent of the annual budgets. Apart from the relief aid and economic development, foreign aid assistance was also provided to support reforms and policy adjustment programs. And between 1981 and 1991 alone, the World Bank provided $20 billion towards Africa's structural adjustment programs. The purpose of the programs was to make public institutions, government agencies, and bureaucracies in Africa more transparent, effective, efficient and accountable. It is somewhat baffling that Africa still suffers from a poverty trap, considering the depth of governments' corruption and the missing billions in export earnings from oil, gas, diamonds and other resources.
The African continent has struggled with chronic poverty and under-development since the advent of political independence more than fifty years. African development experts and academics have blamed foreign aid for the continued and seemingly intractable development crisis confronting the continent. It made Africans poorer. The contention among many experts is that the more the developed north co-operated with the south, the poorer Africa became. Foreign aid has generally benefited the ruling elites in Africa, by among other things, enabling and perpetuating corrupt governments' hold on power, and by extension, entrenching the pervasive underdevelopment. Poverty is a justification for aid, but it is seldom the main criterion used for allocating it. Africa's war on poverty is perceived as amounting to begging and submissiveness.
Research shows that over the period that foreign aid was being pumped into Africa, the per capita GDP declined by an averaged of 0.59 percent annually, between 1975 and 2000. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development admits that aid to Africa has not been successful and despite many years of policy reform, no Sub-Saharan country has completed its adjustment program or achieved any sustained economic growth. The decades of financial and technical aid transfers to Africa have not fostered economic growth, rather, it has left seventy countries, primarily in Sub-Saharan African, poorer than they were in 1980, and 43 are worst off than they were in 1970. The United Nations Development Program describes the 1980's, the period of highest foreign aid transfer to Africa, as the “lost decade.” Over much of that decade, 100 countries mostly in Africa, suffered major economic decline or net stagnation, and the conclusion is that foreign aid failed to create economic growth in aid recipient countries. In a self-assessment in 1987, the World Bank found 106 out of 189 African development projects audited — almost 60 percent — had serious shortcomings or were complete failures. African agriculture projects failed 75 percent of the time. A recent report on aid from the World Bank's private arm, the International Finance Corporation, found only half of its Africa projects succeed.
The old belief that aid transfer allowed poor countries to escape the poverty trap has been refuted, because research has proved that poverty, contrary to the popular belief, is not caused by capital shortage. In fact, studies show that there is no correlation between aid and economic development, rather, most aid recipient countries have become and remained more dependent of foreign aid.
Imagine how you would feel if armies of Africans came and told you how to run your schools and hospitals (while living in some of the smartest homes and the best of hotels)? Who funded politicians who steal and murder? But this is the West's approach abroad: we know best. This is how Britain spent £1bn supporting education in just three east African countries but failed to check whether the teachers turned up or the children were learning; sadly, they were not.
Studies show that there is overwhelming evidence that foreign aid has helped to under-write the misguided policies of the corrupt and bloated government bureaucracies across Africa. The Oxford International Group study revealed that the external stock of capital held by Africans in overseas accounts, was between $700billion and $800 billion in 2005, and nearly 40% of Africa's aggregate wealth was stacked in foreign bank accounts in Europe, United States and Japan. A former U.S Ambassador to Ghana, Edward P. Bryan, admitted that foreign donors have allowed what he describes as “a small, clever class that inherited power from the colonial masters to take us to the cleaners.” It will take a lot of resources and time to turn Africa around. In March 1990, a Paris daily, Le Monde wrote, “Every franc given to impoverished Africans, comes back to France or is smuggled into Switzerland by African bureaucrats and politicians.” And critics contend that donor agencies knew or should have known the motivation and activities of corrupt African leaders who spirit away billions into Swiss Banks and other western bank accounts. Even famine relief aid is not spared. As early as the late 1980's, a former head of Medicine Sans Frontiers, Dr. Rory Branman, lamented the failure of aid to Africa, saying, “We have been duped.” The Western governments and humanitarian groups”, he said, have “unwittingly fueled and are continuing to fuel an operation that will be described in hindsight in a few years' time as one of the greatest slaughters of our time.” The World Bank admitted that in most cases Western donors knew that up to 30 per cent of the loans to African countries and governments went directly into the bank accounts of corrupt officials, yet The Bank considered these officials and their governments as partners in development.A major debilitating by-product of foreign aid to Africa is the culture of corruption that has taken root at every level of every government. Today, corruption has become the way of life in every country in Sub-Saharan Africa, and the theft, bribery and embezzlement of aid, and other government resources are so endemic, they are not considered as crimes. African politicians and government officials have engaged in corruption practices, and a 2004-2005 World Bank Report showed that $148 billion were embezzled out of Africa by politicians and bureaucrats; a significant amount of it being aid and loans earmarked for development activities to benefit Africa's poor.
Bono , U2's front man and self appointed spokes-man for Africa, promotes capitalism as the solution to Africa’s poverty yet even The Blair Commission for Africa report which “celebrated” a quadrupling of foreign investment in Africa from 2003 to 2008 made the point that foreign investment represents should not be mistaken for a sign that the lives of most ordinary Africans are getting better.
"...the lives of most Africans remain unaffected by Africa’s growing economic power. Many Africans’ incomes have not improved. Poverty remains widespread, the region’s share of international trade remains tiny, and climate change and the global economic crisis are threatening to undermine progress made."
"Sir, our village has no water!"
Bono - " Get these people some glassware!"