In the latest issue of Saint Mary’s University student newspaper The Journal, the age old feel-good issue of sending aid to Africa appears to be alive and well:
So what should Canada be doing to keep its promise? … to increase and provide more effective aid to developing countries, implement debt relief, and fairer trade rules in advance of 2015… In order for Canada to do its part and provide effective foreign aid, the government must reach the UN target of giving 0.7% of the national income (GNI) to foreign aid, and enact BillC-293 to make ending poverty the exclusive goal of Canadian foreign aid.
The issue normally brought up is whether or not this aid will actually work. According to some, aid sent to Africa will not only fail to work, but will actually make things worse:
[E]vidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that aid to Africa has made the poor poorer, and the growth slower. The insidious aid culture has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency markets and more unattractive to higher-quality investment.
Government corruption and the existence of totalitarian regimes in Africa are the root cause:
The most obvious criticism of aid is its links to rampant corruption. Aid flows destined to help the average African end up supporting bloated bureaucracies in the form of the poor-country governments and donor-funded non-governmental organizations.
The article lists many disturbing examples of corruption and failure, and I urge everybody to read them all. Unfortunately there are too many to list without copy-and-pasting the entire article.
I imagine that brightly coloured laptops sit in a small closet in rural Africa and slowly collect dust as the days pass. The school that owns them cannot secure power to recharge their batteries, the broken dreams of a grand philanthropist idea that was supposed to revolutionize the world.