Aid and Africa: The Way Forward?

aidAs a citizen of a country that has been give billions in aid though the years, I have always been rather sceptic on the subject. I never believed that aid could lead to something sustainable, something that would allow people the power and freedom to fully express themselves and break the shackles of poverty. Aid usually refers to financial assistance given by richer countries to poorer countries. There are two main types of aid, Humanitarian aid and Development aid. Humanitarian aid aims to help in the short term (e.g. to help after natural disasters or emergencies), to provide essential services and resources to people who are in difficulty. It is only meant to alleviate suffering in the short term rather than contributing towards longer-term poverty alleviation.

In my country, Kenya, both types of aid are visible and have been for quite a while. After the post-election violence in 2008, Kenya saw a rise in humanitarian aid helping displaced people and the effectiveness of this kind of aid is undeniable. (DFID Kenya) Therefore, I believe that humanitarian aid is essential, as with various natural disasters seen around the globe, humanitarian aid is vital in providing support where governments in the global south cannot. However, the current ways development aid is carried out might not be the best way forward in creating sustainable and self-sufficient growth. So what is the way forward?

The world is certainly supposed to be one that gives warm feelings of a job well done if we were to watch the following video by UK Aid to convince British citizens on the benefits of aid.

However, despite all the good feelings and the very real assistance described in the video, the reality of aid is much grimmer. Once we analyse the following chart showing the staggering amounts of aid given to developing countries, but in this instance, my own country, the evidence that tells us something is wrong with the current ways aid is distributed.

graph 2

With a total of $63.7 Billion US Dollars give since 1967, perhaps Dambisa Moyo’s analysis of aid is true, that aid is killing Africa. In the words of Rwandan President Paul Kagame “Aid leads to more aid and more aid and more aid and less independence of the people that are receiving aid.”

However. I find Dambisa Moyo’s total cut off of aid to be extreme, the current hundreds of thousands who currently benefit from aid need to be weaned off and introduced to better ways of living other than dependence on the drug called aid. The complexities of aid have long been acknowledged, in the book ‘Inclusive Aid, Changing Power and Relationships in International Development’, Rachel Hinton and Leslie Groves write about taking into account all the development actors and how the process of creating transparency in governments riddled with corruption. They both write about the complexity of working with organizations and individuals. That the power of individuals should be acknowledged. That the voices of the poor must be heard and prioritized. Both women argue that the way forward is complex and development efforts must take into account the cultural and political influences. One failure of that is clearly evident in today’s crisis with Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Aid workers did not take into account the burial practices of the people and so suffered severe backlashes when trying to help them. (BBC, 2014)

The tools for change are simple but the process won’t be. The main tool for change is respect, powerful countries must respect countries with less sway, in the book ‘Inclusive Aid, Changing Power and Relationships in International Development’ Rosalind Eyben talks about “Who owns a Poverty Reduction Strategy?” This clearly shows who has been in control of aid and in Paul Kagame’s words, giving “bad aid” that increases dependency on the country that gives the aid. Rachel Hinton and Leslie Groves write about the new dynamics of development; that in recent year there have been a fundamental change in development and “dominant aid paradigms.” This is because of the failure of traditional aid policies. They go on to say there has been a change in providing services to the needy, to including members of the population that needs assistance and upholding their rights, therefore working to promote transparent and accountable government. Examples of these are the PRA (Participatory Rural Appraisal) and PLA (Participatory Learning and Action) practiced by the United Nations.

Margaret Kakande asks us, “What type of collaborations should we envisage?” and I believe that Andrew Mwenda in the video below, has the right vision for the way ahead for Africa.


Gallagher, James. “Ebola: How Bad Can It Get?” BBC News. BBC, 9 June 2014. Web. 8 Dec. 2014. <;.

Groves, Leslie, Rachel Hinton, Caroline Robb, Rosalind Eyben, Margaret Kakande, Ruth Marsden, Charles Owusu, Everjoice Win, and Robert Chambers. Inclusive Aid: Changing Power and Relationships in International Development. London: Earthscan, 2004. Print.

“International Aid and Development.” Web. 7 Dec. 2014. <;.

Kagame, Paul. “CNN: Paul Kagame Talks about Dead Aid and China.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.

Moyo, Dambisa. “Is Aid Killing Africa? Dambisa Moyo Talks about Dead Aid on ABC.” YouTube. YouTube. Web. 8 Dec. 2014.

Mwenda, Andrew. “Andrew Mwenda – Aid for Africa? No Thanks.” YouTube. YouTube, 7 May 2014. Web. 7 Dec. 2014. <;.

Picciotto, Robert. “Aid Pessimism: Myth and Reality.” OpenDemocracy. 18 Nov. 2009. Web. 7 Dec. 2014. <;.

Riddel, Roger. “Is Aid Working? Is This the Right Question to Be Asking?” OpenDemocracy. 20 Nov. 2009. Web. 10 Dec. 2014.

Shah, Anup. “Foreign Aid for Development Assistance.” – Global Issues. 8 Sept. 2014. Web. 8 Dec. 2014. <;.


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