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June 01, 2005

A dollar short for Africa
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

A while ago we here made a list of 10 things the Bush Administration could do with no change in policy that would help improve America's image around the world .  Number 1 was getting behind Britain's initiative to dramatically up aid to Africa, making good on commitments the G8 adopted starting in 2001.

As part of the very same press conference with Thabo Mbeki in which, as Derek discusses below, Bush called the situation in Darfur genocide, the President also make clear he has no intention of being more generous to Africa because "it doesn't fit our budgetary process." 

Meanwhile the EU's original 15 members agreed Tuesday to increase official aid for immunizations, sanitation, education, and other programs for the poor to the equivalent of 0.7 percent of GDP by 2015.  The 10 newest EU members pledged to ''strive for'' 0.33 percent.  That's more than double the .16 of GDP the U.S. currently spends.

The purpose of Mbeki's trip to the U.S. was, at least in large part, to try to build support for the anti-poverty meeting in preparation for an upcoming G8 confab in Scotland.  While Mbeki tried to put a positive spin on the President's response, the absence of any new commitments means he was pretty much shut out.

The problem is not that Britain wants to shower aid willy-nilly.  They too have demanded strict accountability and anti-corruption measures as part of their proposals.  In fact, the Bush Administration's failure to support the UK is becoming a source of real friction between Bush and Blair.  Blair is considering imposing a tax to fund the program, a concept that's unimaginable here.

The EU is in chaos, but has still managed to agree that it wants to be on the forefront of the global battle against poverty, motivated partly by morality and partly by pragmatic concerns about the chaos and spillover effects that desperation breeds. 

The Administration has made the promotion of freedom a centerpiece of its policy, but won't put up the money to help lift up countries for which the biggest threats to freedom are disease, hunger, and poor education.   As the EU moves forward without us, a measure that could have boosted America's image will now hurt it. 

The end of today's press conference was a recitation of tired arguments on Zimbabwe.  Bush decried Mugabe's abuses and reckless ransacking of his country, concluding that "it's a problem."  Mbeki tripped over his own claim that the regime needs "support . . . to overcome these problems," almost saying that its the opposition that deserves the help.  Meanwhile, the despot has been rounding up tens of thousands of political opponents, burning their homes and running others out of the country's big towns.   

It's not too late for Bush to change his mind in advance of the July G-8 Summit.  Why not offer the aid, but link it to a genuine partnership on promoting democracy in Africa - including an end to Mbeki and others' support for Mugabe.  Zimbabwe now seems to be on its way to complete mayhem, which could necessitate lengthy and costly international intervention and recovery effort.  Given the choice between billions more in aid or standing by a friend who is starving his own people, African leaders might budge.


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"Why not offer the aid, but link it to a genuine partnership on promoting democracy in Africa?"

GREAT idea! And we can call it, oh, the Millenium Challenge Account!

"The Administration has made the promotion of freedom a centerpiece of its policy, but won't put up the money to help lift up countries for which the biggest threats to freedom are disease, hunger, and poor education.

GREAT point! Maybe the President could start a multiyear $15B program to fight AIDS!

What? The president has already initiated both these ideas years ago?

So, with all due respect (and please forgive the snarks) why isn't he getting credit for them here?

Simple: because he isn't funding them
But you're right that the plans sounded good.

What the plan Brown is floating amounts to is transferring hard-earned tax money from ordinary and poor people in rich countries to rich kleptocrats in poor countries. What on earth gives anyone the idea that the aid would actually reach anyone in the first place, or do any good? Honestly?

Africa's problem is the Africans themselves. Tribalism, ethnic violence, superstition (Nigerian Muslims rejecting polio vacciness because it's a "plot to sterilize Muslims" and of course the rape of virgins in South Africa to "cure" AIDS), devaluation of education, contempt for work, oppression of women, suppression of free flow of information, kin-based governments and economies, and a general reluctance to accept the rules of the modern world.

If you look at countries that did well out of Colonialism ... they all look the same: Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, even to an extent Malaysia and Vietnam. Some of them endured horrific wars. All at least provided the basics of good governance and not the above horrors. At independence in the early sixties Malaysia and Ghana both had the same income levels, life expectancy, education, etc. Malaysia did much better because they stressed education and development, national identity, while Ghana fell into tribalism.

All the Aid money in the world and Bob Geldof won't change a thing until the people of Africa say enough and change their own cultures to some accordance with modern life. Aid to Africa is just throwing money down a rathole, the kleptocrats will steal it all.

More aid will not do any good.

What is needed is rule of law and protection of property rights.

Why would Mbeki speak out against Mugabe?

Mbeki is a communist and believes that land confiscations are the morally correct attitude. In fact some think he has the same thing in mind for South Africa.

You see when doing the morally correct thing what are a few million dead? The main thing is that there should be no power centers that might dispute the rule of the party.

For every US$ 3 "given" to Africa in 2002, sub-saharan African received only about 6 cents as real aid money. The rest went to well-paid consultants, administrators, debt relief, and such (The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs). Even 10 cents per African cannot be seriously considered "a weapon against poverty."

According to the Congressional Research Service, a branch of the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), from 1949 to 1996, U.S. foreign aid to all of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean combined was $62,497,800,000. During that same period, Israel received $62.5 billion.

Broken down by population in 1995, sub-Saharan countries, with a combined population of 568 million received $42.99 per sub-Saharan African; with a population of 468 million, Latin America and the Caribbean together had received $79 per person; with a population of 5.8 million, Israel received $10,775 per Israeli.

No one is asking the US to match its huge contribution to Israel’s development. But one can ask that the US should pay what it pledges; that all the amounts pledged should go towards aid - not administration, not consultants, not debt relief - with conditions of good governance. Aid should not be viewed as a hand-out but as a helping hand. A tool for change.

As President John F. Kennedy stated, “The answer is that there is no escaping our obligations: our moral obligations as a wise leader and good neighbor in the interdependent community of free nations—our economic obligations as the wealthiest people in a world of largely poor people, as a nation no longer dependent upon loans from abroad that once helped us develop our own economy—and our political obligations as the single largest counter to the adversaries of freedom.”

The problem is distribution of Aid in the sub-Saharan Africa. I personally believe that the aid doled out at the moment could be more efficiently used. There are 2 distribution scenarios at present.

1 Give the money to the countries and let the governments administer these funds. This has not worked. Most of these funds have wound up in the pockets of corrupt officials. This is true for all of sub-Saharan Africa.

2. Bring in a whole load of consultants. Here, a lot of the money winds up in the consultants pockets, as these guys are paid some pretty hefty salaries and/or enrich themselves from these funds in some rather dubious ways. Note that these consultants are normally from the First World, and that not all of them are guilty of raping these funds.

What to do? The First World donors, in my opinion, need to set up agencies made up of local civilians as well as First World consultants, and institute strict auditing procedures in order to ensure that the monies are utilized where most needed. All these donors need to sit with the donee nations and prioritize where aid needs to be delivered, how much and what are the expected results. If a definite plan is put in place, there are then criteria by which to constantly re-evaluate and change course when necessary. Further, gains in aid programs only mean anything if the donee nation can, at some point in the future, take total responsibility for the program, including funding the program. This should, I believe, be somewhere about mid-way in the life of the program, the eventual aim of the program being to have eliminated those conditions that necessitated the program.

Sub-Saharan Africa has been receiving aid for years, and how far have they got? Mbeki of South Africa appeals for aid, but has the audacity to spend Rand 38 million (USD5m) on renaming an airport. I know that this view-point is extremely paternalistic, but anything else is a waste of time, money and effort!

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