Let's Brand Aid, Make Them Wave Our Flag

It is incredible how aid has transformed lives of local communities and still continuing to present opportunities to individuals.

It is incredible how aid has transformed lives of local communities and still continuing to present opportunities to individuals. I am a very lucky to witness this on a daily basis at Childreach International an organization that work's with local communities in Tanzania, India and Nepal in supporting various education projects mostly for children and women.http://www.childreach.org.uk/who-we-are/about-us

Aid used properly is transposing lives; Millions of children are going to school, women are developing income generating activities and becoming independent, hospitals are being built and farmers are not only being educated on new skills but getting fertilizers through different schemes.

Few days ago, UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell was talking about how Great Britania is doing amazing work in transforming communities in 'third world' through giving aid even though the development organizations has not recognized and gave accolade to the British public. He was quoted saying,

... I believe it is important that aid funded by the British people should be easily and clearly identified as coming from the UK. It is right that people in villages, towns and cities around the world can see by whom aid is provided.'

There is nothing wrong with being recognized and Andrew Mitchell is quite right to demand 'praise' for what his country is doing. But, what does branding aid do to communities? Do we care about community's dignity? Is it true that people in Kenya don't recognize where money for free primary education is coming from? Don't women in Liberia care where resources are coming from for their hair dressing project through Global Heart Children? And don't people in Malawi appreciate the leverage they get from foreign governments?

If we are to brand and put logo wherever support has gone, how many children would have the UKAID logo on their faces?

Branding aid is retrogressive and makes communities feel like they are being owned. It brings back the 'white elephant' into villages. Communities will not fully participate in projects as they will distantly point, 'their project' instead of 'our project.'

Branding aid promotes corruption. Why should they care about money that is coming abroad? The attitude of 'let's eat as much as we can' is promoted. Perhaps may be this is the ethos many corrupt governments operate in. It doesn't matter how resources is being used.

Branding aid creates 'us' vs 'them' culture. People in development have been working for decades to eradicate the 'us vs them' phrase into partnership, 'working together' to improving communities' lives. With branding aid, communities will start alienating themselves and meaningful partnership will be lost.

Branding aid strengthens the concept of imperialism. When aid comes with 'a flag,' it promotes 'you are weak you need to be helped' culture. It makes communities feel like they are being owned and their lives depend on somebody else. They are not free!

Branding aid is expensive. I dread to think how much the UK government has spent on this 'aid logo.' Besides that, since Andrew Mitchell said he wants every village to know where the aid is coming from, how much will the department spend in just 'labeling' projects?

Again, there is nothing wrong with 'donors' being recognized and quite right too. But may be we should ask, 'why do we give aid?'


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