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Does Aid to Africa Work?

April 6, 2009

Mark McKinnon, in The Daily Beast, has a defense of international aid to Africa in response to the recent publication of a book, “Dead Aid” by Dambisa Moyo, which cites that aid as a contributing factor in the continued economic difficulties experienced by African nations. In the current economic crisis, McKinnon argues, aid to African countries is not only producing positive results but is urgently necessary to sustain the precarious growth achieved in countries destabilized by war, political upheaval and environmental degredation:

Aid has played a part in cementing peace and fostering development after conflict in Rwanda, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the BBC’s David Loyn after a meeting in London with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, stability in fragile post-conflict countries will be threatened if aid is reduced at this crucial time because of the global downturn. She said that it made sense for the richer countries in the world to fund the poorest now, because it would cost much less than paying for peacekeeping operations later. There was a need to “sustain the gains made by African people over the years with such sacrifice,” President Johnson Sirleaf said.

There are legitimate criticisms of the delivery mechanism and culture which provides aid to Africa. In addition to political corruption and international myopia, there is also the question of whether continued aid to Africa has the effect of establishing a set of nations dependent on the charity of others at the expense of initiative and growth. Does aid, in effect, create a disincentive for the creation of independent and sustainable economies in Africa? While it may be a particularly inopportune moment to question the efficacy of aid to needy African nations, with the faltering economies of the west limiting aid out of necessity rather than philosophy, the subject is an important one for a part of the world that is likely to see more than its share of challenges in the coming decades.

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