One of the recent debates about aid is that it is either going to the pockets of selfish politicians, being deposited in Swiss banks or used to buy arms and subjects communities to more miseries. Of course there is no shadow of a doubt that some of these allegations are true but isn't the glass half full?
Aid is not the only solution in fighting poverty and poor countries should be in charge in solving some of their problems. Home grown solutions are more effective and bring pride and dignity. But aid should be seen as part of this route that aims to bring change among communities.
Aid encourages investors. Investors want to go where there is stability and different type of aid promotes this. Aid improves the opportunities for private investment, and so money that otherwise would have fled the country gets invested inside it. Aid significantly reduces capital flight. I know most of us have the image of a politician stuffing his bag with money not supposed to be his. In Kenya, World Bank had provided money for youth development and it was dubbed 'kazi kwa vijana' (work for the youths). Audit report says that money was swindled and very little impact could be deduced from the project. In Angola, research was carried to find out whether money from the World Bank actually reached the community. Notice, research was not about change that project brought.
Unfortunately negativity of aid has been over re-emphasised and good has been down played
Aid is not just about hand outs. It involves building community facilities like schools, health centres and even roads. Aid can be spent in helping the export sector. For instance improving the infrastructure at the port of a country. Once the port is improved and the aid scaled back, then we are left with just a better port. Pioneering success is a sensible use of aid money partly because of the demonstration effect of role models.
It has been documented how countries have misused aid money and officials have taken advantage of the support being given to living luxurious lives and building expensive houses. Perhaps donor countries should do more in administering aid. And if this is the case, then it comes with a burden. Cost! Governments have proven incompetence in usage of aid in terms of community development and so donor countries should play a key role in administration.
By the way, isn't this why Chinese are very successful in their work in Africa? They come in, they take charge and do it their way.
Aid alone will not be sufficient to turn the poor communities around. But it is part of the solution rather than part of the problem. The challenge is to complement it with good governance and other actions.
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