View Full Version : Aid to Africa: Beneficial or Impediment?

07-10-2006, 08:46 PM
10 July Associated Press - Some Question Whether African Aid Helps (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/10/AR2006071000496.html).

When the world's richest nations promised to double aid to the poorest, most of them in Africa, at least one African was appalled. And not because he thought the pledges were too little or would never be realized. He thought they were too much.

"The best thing the West can do is to do nothing for Africa," Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan writer and radio host, said during a recent visit to Britain, which a year ago chaired the Group of Eight summit at which those ambitious aid pledges were made.

"Throwing money at African dictators cannot be a solution to ending poverty," said Mwenda. He charged that democracy in Africa had been stalled by aid, because leaders focused on responding to donors, not their own citizens.

While not everyone goes as far as Mwenda in calling for a freeze, he is not alone in questioning whether aid does much good - and may even do harm.

George Ayittey, a U.S.-based Ghanaian-born economist, argues that if Africa kept what it loses to corruption, weapons spending and capital flight and grew more for itself rather than importing food, the savings would equal what it gets in foreign aid.

The problem isn't lack of resources, but lack of democracy and good government, Ayittey said, comparing Africa to eastern Europe under communist rule...

Steve Blair
07-10-2006, 09:36 PM
Very well put. The biggest problem with aid money is making sure it goes where it's intended to be spent.

07-11-2006, 10:49 AM
I think it is not that easy to stop or limit aid to Africa. There is a widely accepted good-will associated with it, at least in Europe. I think future generations will be more concerned with where the money goes, including corruption.

Since the countries are rich of resources, that also attracts foreign investments. They compete internationally and it has not been uncommon to tie business deals to aid or military assistance. On the one hand that also makes it harder to do a quick turnabout. On the other hand, it points out that other powers have interests in the region. China, for instance, which does not mind turning a blind eye to human rights and corruption, etc.


07-11-2006, 11:58 PM
It is the same sad problem aid, no mater how well meaning can be used to support tyrants. I am a believer in the power of aid to advance foreign policy but I think we have done a poor job at using it effectively.

Tom Odom
07-12-2006, 01:26 PM
As most of you know my background dealt heavily in this area and I have posted here my thoughts on aid and foreign policy. Africa is certainly a stark example of assistance waste and it easy to make points shooting at this particular duck on the water. Congo/Zaire is in my mind the absolute example of the corrupt dictator/regime supported through a host of assistance programs. I have over the years come to believe that our greatest strength as a nation is what Dr. Joe Nye (Assistannt Sec Def when I was in Rwanda) our "soft power": the appeal of our economic and political systems. I also believe that the best way to use foreign assistance is as an extension of that soft power, distanced from immediate policy goals. When we get into the "### for tat" mode of foreign assistance we are essentially buying or bribing our way; we end up with Mobutus or Duvaliers. Or we end up with open ended agreements like the Camp David accords that drain our foreign assistance budget for strategic goals that were achieved with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. I am somewhat cheered by the emergence of organizations like that of Bill Gates that may ultimately be more effective in exercising American soft power than USAID ever was.

But I would also caution you about being ethnocentric in your appraisal of 3rd world corruption. I live in Louisiana and I grew up in SE Texas; does anyone think that the disaster relief effort and subsequent assistance efforts for Katrina and Rita were models for government and public efficiency and honesty?



07-12-2006, 08:51 PM
Aid comes in many forms, and I think some of them are definitely more prone to expropriation than others. Educational materials and vaccination would seem to be hard to turn into guns and troops. Food aid will be expropriated to at least some degree, but when it's necessary food aid is a life and death matter. We can let a few goons get fat off their Kalishnikovs if it saves half a million lives. Water typically comes in the form of purification equipment, I imagine (although I've actually no idea). Seems we should have somebody watching where this gets set up.

Money, vehicles and medicine (all sorely needed) would seem to be the most easily diverted. However, even there the benefit of a handful of vehicles or a truckload of antibiotics would seem to outweigh even the most serious corruption issues.

Corruption stems from a variety of causes, primarily lack of accountability on the part of government officials and an inadequate criminal justice system. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be something that can easily be cured from outside the corrupt society. The New Orleans Police Department has always been considered one of the nation's most corrupt, and the FBI (for example) has been unable to affect change.

However, I will point out that there is a difference in degree between official corruption in the United States and Africa. I.e. in the United States you get occasional ticket fixing and cronyism. In Africa you get army checkpoints set up for the purpose of relieving all passers by of their valuables.

Tom Odom
07-13-2006, 04:44 PM
However, I will point out that there is a difference in degree between official corruption in the United States and Africa. I.e. in the United States you get occasional ticket fixing and cronyism. In Africa you get army checkpoints set up for the purpose of relieving all passers by of their valuables.

Having personnally been through hundreds of those checkpoints, I would agree and disagree. Agree that they do happen, depending on the country and the circumstance. Disagree in that a checkpoint or a hundred checkpoints does not have the economic and political effects of a "Duke" Cunningham or a senior AF procurement officer trading contract approvals for a 6 figure salary with Boeing. Gratefully we prosecute (most of the time) if it crosses what we set as our legal boundaries in such matters. In Africa, that --like here--is a function of local factors. But I would also point out, in the cases of the most extreme corruption, we have through our own policies abetted and in some cases like Mobutu encouraged such behavior.

The truly extreme cases are in countries like Mobutu's Zaire where the government IS the criminal system. In those cases, one uses the blackmarket or other avenues as the least subject to corruption. Where corruption REALLY gets blatant is when you see it cross into NGO and purported missionary organizations like Operation Blessing which showed up in Zaire under aegis of humanitarian assistance when they were really smuggling diamonds and gold. They ended up getting fined over that one by the State of Virginia.

And by the way, Operation Blessing was one of the main conduits for federal assistance in the wake of Katrina. Curiouser and curiouser, n'est pas?



02-07-2007, 12:08 AM


Sub-Saharan Africa poses a somewhat ironic strategic dilemma for the United States in the post-Cold War era. Most authorities are quick to acknowledge that the United States has no vital interests in the region, and the end of the Cold War eliminated the East Bloc/West Bloc competition as an incentive for involvement. Yet, over the past decade, Africa has been the recipient of more U.S. military interventions than all other regions of the world combined. The interventions stem, of course, from complex humanitarian emergencies which the developed world cannot ignore. For a variety of reasons, it seems very likely that Africa will continue to suffer calamities which will require expensive humanitarian interventions.
Because of the perceived limited national interest in Africa, U.S. "African" policy does not have a strong constituency in the American political process and lacks coherence and focus. U.S. regional involvements tend to be inconsistent and reactive. The result is that the United States invests much more for "cures" to Africa's ills than might be the case if U.S. policy could place more emphasis on "prevention." For their part, at no time in history have African nations been more receptive to U.S. assistance, or more eager for cooperative efforts to address the difficult issues of national development.
While the United States may not have vital interests in Africa, the entire world (including the United States) clearly has an interest in durable regional stability. In view of Africa's huge size and substantial resources, it also clearly is in the interest of the United States to see sustained regional economic development and to maintain unfettered commercial and military access throughout the region. But more importantly, tropical Africa is one of the "Hot-Zone" regions from which devastatingly lethal pandemic diseases can emerge with little warning: the most important access could well be that of disease monitoring and prevention. This may, in fact, be a vital "defense
of the homeland" interest for the United States. One Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel C. William Fox, Jr., a physician who has had extensive experience in U.S. activities in Africa over the past two decades, has personally supervised operations that have considerable potential as models for future regional involvement. In this publication, he offers a rationale and vision for future DoD activities in Africa. His account also serves to remind us that substantial strategic benefits can accrue to the United States even from small, tailored teams deployed under creative, energetic leaders.

02-07-2007, 05:20 PM
Something to keep in mind, no matter what kind of aid gets sent, be it M-151 Jeeps or pencils; if the infrastructure is not in place most of these items will end up in the black market.