AFRICANGLOBE -The debate around Africa and aid is never far away, and on October 1, it continued at London City Hall, where experts in international development and business had a no-holds-barred intellectual brawl about its effectiveness.
The boldest comments of the night came from Titi Banjoko, Managing Director of Africa Recruit, whose opening statement was: ‘‘Aid in most countries needs to go.’’
She argued that aid undermines governments’ accountability. ‘‘If government is forced to do what it should do, then you will begin to see change,” she said, and alluded to her home country, Nigeria: “Why does Nigeria get aid? [With] the amount of money they have – where is it?” With millions—billions even—leaving the country every year, she added: ‘‘Africa is rich in resources…we are not poor but resources are poorly managed.’’
Her statements echo infamous books such as the “Lords of Poverty” by Graham Hancock or “Dead Aid” by Dambisa Moyo which question why western governments give aid and argue that it has choked off economic growth, sponsored corruption, and fostered dependence on foreign donors.
For certain African countries, it seems that after long periods of high levels of aid, this has has become the problem other than the solution. The problems of aid dependency are serious as governments lose their ability to lead and their accountability to citizens is eroded, and they are also stubborn and hard to overcome.
Data now show that two-thirds of the countries in Africa are projected to receive less aid in 2017 than last year—worthy of celebrating if the donors weren’t worried that they are not increasing aid to already-dependent recipients. Today, after more than half a century and a trillion dollars poured in by donors, some African governments are starting to raise more money from citizens and companies than from foreign donors.
There are however several states which are still highly dependent on aid. The most recent statistics, with the most comprehensive cover, on aid dependency come from the Organisation for Economic Co?operation and Development. Its definition of aid dependency looks at the percentage of the gross national income that is made up of country programmable aid (the portion of aid that donors programme at country or regional level) and, worryingly, there were several African countries that stand out:
Malawi: 28.59% of national income
With Malawi currently struggling to feed itself, it can not afford to lose resources without this having dire impacts on the most basic services such as schooling and health care. Its extremely high aid dependence was seen most starkly with the coming into the limelight of the “cashgate” scandal – when donors withdrew aid in response to government corruption. This crippled the government’s ability to manage the needs of the country including pay salaries to teachers, nurses and other public servants. There were public service cuts and districts were left without the funds to provide for the most basic items like medicines.