African Investment and Aid

I have to say I thoroughly agree with this bit of the Time article called '10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.' (Not that I don't agree with the rest of it, although) It's a bit like the old advert of 'give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, teach him how to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime.' What Africa needs isn't hand-outs, it's investment, not just of money, but of knowledge and skills.

At a recent G8 summit, the 'western powers' were asked to up their aid donations to $50 billion a year by 2010 and $75 billion a year by 2015. As there are 53 states in the African continent, that averages out at around $1 billion per country (assuming they all get an equal share and that's all the aid they get, neither of which is true). Taking one country, Zimbabwe, in 2007 they had a GDP between $6 and $28 billion (depending on who you believe) and you can see that donations are a tiny amount compared to what they generate themselves. This from a country with 94% unemployment and which is in serious economic decline. Zimbabwe was once a very prosperous country, but reforms in 2000 that saw most of the white farmers removed from their land or encouraged to leave meant a 51% decline in agricultural output between 2000 and 2007, and the country now has to import crops to support it's population, although they are still suffering from severe food shortages.

Admittedly some of the problems with aid are well known: corruption, problems reaching affected people, lack of ongoing support (i.e. something is provided but not supported) and unfulfilled promises (countries and organisations promise x in aid but don't deliver it). In the case of Live Aid, for example, despite trying to help millions of Ethiopians, they had to buy a fleet of trucks to break a trucking cartel in the Port of Sudan; Ethiopians were standing in the way of aid to help Ethiopians.

Perhaps charity organisations should be using the money they raise to hire experts and set-up information and skills sharing programmes rather than temporary solutions to the immediate problems. Instead of spending money on mosquito nets, set-up a manufacturing plant in the country so they can make their own.

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