Aid cuts will help Africa in the long run

A man shares food contribution by USAID to Ethiopian refugees who fled the Tigray conflict at Village Eight transit centre near the Ethiopian border in Gedaref, eastern Sudan, on December 2, 2020.

Possibly the only thing thicker than the syrup drizzled over the petit fours served at African Union (AU) summits yearly is the irony in the speeches given by those eating them.

Between meals largely paid for by Western donors, African leaders take to the podium to denounce the West for their 'excessive' influence. Yet for all the hypocrisy, they have a point: Handouts can cause economic problems and undermine sovereignty.

African countries have enough experts to steer the continent to economic empowerment. But the West are aware of our (Africa) potential and is shipping our scholars to their countries, manipulating our politics for their interest

Africa’s inability to realise its potential has left it at the mercy of the West. The time has come for Africa to seize the moment and resist the efforts of the West to leave their imprint and plunder its natural resources under the pretext of aid.

Mega projects are given to foreign companies and profits made by these companies are reinvested back in Europe which, in turn, increases the level of poverty in Africa. That is done to ensure dependency remains forever. Hope in the future is not built by US policy to promote trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa or aid commitments by the Paris Club, nor by forgiveness of millions of dollars worth of debts.

Dambisa Moyo, in her 2009 book, Dead Aid, argues that aid increases poverty by fuelling corruption and making exports more expensive. It increases laziness and dependency “Aid is not benign, it’s malignant,” she wrote.

When Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo later said “It is obvious that the aid bus will not take Africa where it has to be”, he spoke for many on the continent. However, over the past decade, aid has kept increasing and Africa has long been the biggest recipient.

Trend will be reversed

In 2025, this trend will be reversed. Donor countries are cutting direct aid by about a third as a result of their own challenges to fund mega projects like nuclear and wind power that generate clean energy to reduce carbon emissions. The immediate impacts will be grave. Leading philanthropist Bill Gates says Covid-19 and aid cuts are undermining 25 years of progress in healthcare. The World Bank thinks the number of very poor people globally could jump by up to 120 million.

Yet, in the long run, there will be positive changes. Remittances will become even more important than foreign aid. Remittance flows to Africa doubled to $100 billion last year and are expected to improve slightly this year. Much of the money goes into education and housing; little is stolen by corrupt officials.

Many African countries are putting scarce aid money into social safety nets rather than wasteful grandiose projects. And less aid means many countries will have to raise more in taxes. However, to do so they will have to promise—and deliver—better governance, more accountability and democracy and perhaps fewer petit fours at AU shindigs.

Mr Mandu is the national organising secretary, Ford-Kenya party. [email protected].