Is Africa all about Money? No

I feel that there are two great problems in Sub Saharan Africa, aids and aid, with the latter having the more serious impact, creating a kind of learned dependancy leading to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.
I know that I am very new to Malawi, but I read in a National Malawi newspaper,recently, that Malawi gets poorer by the day.
In fact, after fifty years of trying and €500 billion worth of aid-giving, with little rise in living standards in Africa, I can, as they say rest my case. Advocates of aid talk about cheap solutions like the 10-cent salts that would save a baby dying from diarrhea , or medicine that saves someone dying from malaria, or the 5 cent tablets to clean dirty water. Yet despite the aid money coming in by the lorry load, two million babies still died from diarrheal diseases last year, more than a million still died from malaria, and 1.1 billion people in the world still lack clean drinking water.
It would not be an outrageous assumption to make that all is not well with the Aid Business and that it needs to become less aid and more business(like). Obviously, money alone does not solve problems. What is needed instead are business, social, and political entrepreneurs who take responsibility for what they say they will do, rather than create more and more exotic slogans, that help to raise yet more money for ineffectual aid bureaucracies. Entrepreneurs would be accountable for results, in contrast to the aid bureaucrats and rich country politicians who make promises, that they rarely keep, and for which no one holds them accountable.
Seems to me! that Aid money is often given for grey area funding with little auditing and follow up. Soon Ireland will be donating, on behalf of it’s taxpayers, 1000 million euro to developing countries, who will check to see how well it is spent?.
I listened to the 2007 Michael Littleton Memorial Lecture delivered by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and entitled A Transforming Africa; Opportunities and Challenges, on RTE 1 on Dec 31, and was heartened by her analysis of aid and how to apply it.
In conclusion she said “Africa is open for business”.
Private enterprise has had many successes throughout the world, as a method of of escaping serious poverty, and it is patronizing to suggest that it can’t work in Africa.
I can see no reason why the spirited women I work with, in Malawi, should be condemned to be the helpless dependants of rich donors from the developed world. They want to work, they want their dignity and they can cope with freedom of choice: constantly giving them something for nothing is only confirming that they are already dead.
I feel that this may be the time to invest in Africa, and maybe investing in the women of Africa would be the brightest financial decision you ever make.


3 thoughts on “Is Africa all about Money? No

  1. As a Malawian, I strongly agree with your analysis. Aid to Africa is an unsustainable way of dealing with Africa’s problems. We need solutions that takes Africans as partners and not dependents. How long shall we expect to be receiving aid from the West? We need to know how to fish rather than be given the fish! I believe removing trade barriers to Western markets is one way of doing this.


  2. Of course, Africa is not all about money, but how far can any country or continent get without a sufficient amount? As much aid as it sometimes seems that African countries have received (which we already know seldom reached the people or purpose for which it was intended), I wonder how the amount of aid $ would compare to amount of $ from whatever source, used by a similar-sized population in a “developed” country during a similar period of time. I would guess it would be a very imbalanced equation.

    In the discourse, I simply heard frustration – no answers. I know that I don’t have any though I have lived there for 2 1/2 years and then and now, I search for little glimmers of hope. Opening the doors for free trade could hold some potential, but for whom. . .Those who own the tobacco and tea and sugar and coffee plantations?

    Is the Malawian response (above) victim-bearing-blame one that is shaped by a residual colonial mentality? There is much to be done to “overcome”.

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