Africa tends to get a lot of negativity regarding numerous issues ranging from Female Genital Mutilation, to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS to bribery and corruption. It sometimes appears as if there is no end to the laundry list of things we can ‘borrow’ from the Western world; and the suggestion that the continent can benefit from borrowing a few things from western culture is true to an extent. However there is one thing in particular that would truly benefit the African continent, and that is drastically reducing how much money we take from the west. In other words, the entire continent would be much better off if we stopped accepting financial aid from the west.

A little history about aid. In July 1944 various delegates from numerous countries came together to establish a system. It was during this period that Europe became the recipient of vast amounts of cash infused aid in order for the continent to get back on its feet after the devastation that World War II left behind. The World Bank and the IMF were also established during this period. The World Bank’s respective role was to facilitate investment and reconstruction whereas the IMF was to manage the global financial system. Transactions included reconstruction loans to France, The Netherlands, Denmark and Luxembourg between 1946-1947. These transfers played key roles in the reconstruction and re-establishment of Europe as the powerful region that it is today. After Europe’s astounding recovery it became a general belief that aid was the answer to the world’s economic problems hence attention was turned to the world’s poorest continent Africa. It became a worldwide assumption that what underdeveloped countries needed was financial capital to spark growth and development.

This all seems logical until we realise that when aid was initially propelled into the African continent, many of the countries were also just gaining their independence. In other words by having newly independent African nations borrow from colonial powers such as England, France etc. Europe was indirectly sustaining a firm hold on African countries. So despite the many the African fights for independence, they were still under the control of their former colonial masters. A more recent example of this is British Prime Minister David Cameron’s threat to cut back on aid to anti-gay nations.

Over 1 trillion dollars has been sent to Africa in the past 50 years, yet real per-capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades.

The main argument against the transfer of aid to Africa is that aid helps feed corrupt governments and encourages laziness and over-reliance within African populations. Many African countries are steeped in rampant corruption and deplorable leadership therefore it is clear that providing aid to already corrupt-led nations will only worsen the infrastructure of these countries over time. Over a period of time aid has created a culture of dependency in many African regions. A steady flow of aid is a great way to keep bad government in power as it has no motivation to raise funds or to the citizens of African nations. Therefore it comes as no surprise that across the African continent over 70% of money the government spends comes from foreign aid. Foreign aid has failed miserably over the past 60 years and yet surprisingly has been allowed to persist for such an embarrassingly long period of time as an economic strategy.

Africa requires a combination of various financial solutions which include the promotion of trade and encouraging more foreign direct investment. The success of these strategies depends wholly on the termination of excessive supply of developmental aid. Optimistically speaking, once Africans become better educated on the detrimental impact of foreign aid, then the western leaders and policy makers will have no choice than to cut down on its excessive supply, thereby giving Africa the room it needs to grow and prosper on its own two feet.

-Hajara Iyal

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  • layohla

    This is an interesting argument and although western countries such as UK talk of reducing the amount of aid they give to African countries and use it as a negative rhetoric to implicitly suggest how backwards Africa is due to its lack of self reliance, the west needs to give aid to Africa, however little, to continue to have a presence in the region. Aid giving acts as a mechanism to facilitate a relationship of unequal power between the west and Africa and is as necessary to African leaders looking to stay government with promises of available money as it is to western leaders who will be able to corner a market and influence/control in the region.