It has helped millions to overcome distressing conditions during famines and flooding, but what about the long-term efficiency of foreign aid? Are we helping others or ourselves?

 

Foreign aid is simply a way of responding to poorer countries’ woes. This is achieved with money, food or other resources being given or lent by a More Economically Advanced Country (MEDC), such as the United Kingdom, to a Less Economically Developed Country (LEDC), such as Ethiopia.

Foreign aid has consequently been branded as a development assistant due to its tremendous work in almost all the African nations. Amongst all the African countries benefiting most from foreign aid is Kenya, where it is believed to account for 5-6 per cent of Kenya’s total income according to the BBC news. Why then has the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, decided to urge African leaders to stop receiving foreign aid? Why would the President of a country that is seen to be benefiting the most from foreign aid boldly claim that foreign aid, ‘often carries terms and conditions that preclude progress’? If anything, shouldn’t the Kenyan President hail the virtues of foreign aid just as other countries such as Ethiopia have done?

In 1992, the proportion of the Ethiopian population that was undernourished was 69 per cent. Today, the percentage of undernourished Ethiopians is 41 per cent. That’s still a lot of hungry people, but it’s a dramatic decline during a 23-year period. Infant mortality in Ethiopia is one of the highest in the world (68 per 1,000 live births) — but that rate dropped by 39 per cent between 1990 (when the rate was 111 deaths per 1,000 live births) and 2010, according to UNICEF. This significant change in the country was made possible through the huge involvement of foreign aid.

A further example of the wonders of foreign aid can be seen in another African country: Ghana.  According to the Guardian, each person in Britain will give the people of Ghana about £1.50. That money, amounting to about £95 million, will be spent through the offices of the Department for International Development in Accra on a range of programmes that currently prioritise two things: supporting girls and women in education and helping in humanitarian efforts in the desperately poor Northern Savannah region.

By 2015, the money given by Britain to help Ghana progress towards the Millennium Development Goals will have seen 4.75 million mosquito nets distributed to prevent malaria, cash grants provided directly to 100,000 people still living on less than a dollar a day, 70,000 girls remaining in school and 50,000 subsistence farmers given access to business services. This should all hopefully help Ghana to develop independently and at its own pace. Therefore, given these results, foreign aid could still be seen as an essential tool for helping countries to develop on their own, without it interfering too much in their individual financial, political and social affairs.

If foreign aid does not control and manipulate African leaders’ decisions as to how their respective countries should be governed, then why is the Kenyan President against using it to provide a helping hand to other African countries, including his own?

Kenya’s President isn’t the only African leader to speak out on foreign aid. Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni said to George W. Bush in 2003: ‘I don’t want aid; I want trade. Aid cannot transform society’.  This again alludes to the idea that African leaders do not wish to make foreign aid seem like the only solution towards fostering prosperity in their country. And this may be a good thing to bear in mind, as changes in circumstances can lead to severe and drastic measures being taken, such as the temporary or permanent stoppage of foreign aid. Still, as the proverb goes, ‘you should never bite the hand that feeds you’. Here this simply means that African leaders shouldn’t be in a rush to say farewell to foreign aid, they should instead strengthen the bond they have created with MEDCs. This is because the conditions for opportunities such as fair trade can always be made better and further advice may always be got on how to develop their countries sustainably.

According to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, one of the main arguments against foreign aid is that it has a negative effect on the American taxpayer and the recipients throughout the world. Citizens pay twice for aid through subsidies for inefficient production of agricultural products and aid programs, while the recipients struggle to find employment and their Global Domestic Product (GDP) suffers because their local markets are flooded with subsidized goods created thousands of miles away. Through this system, money does not enter into the local economies, not a single job is made and more often, local jobs are destroyed as aid floods the market with cheap foreign-made goods that could have been provided locally.

The other side of the story is that aid has stunted African economic growth with the average person making 11 per cent less today than they did in 1960. So here we have a plausible reason for why Uhuru Kenyatta is urging African leaders to stop receiving aid. However, I hope that having read this article, readers will still agree that foreign aid is an incredible source of help for many countries where due to environmental conditions or financial problems, development has been retarded.

After taking into account both the positives and negatives of foreign aid, do you think that the stance taken by the Kenyan President will hinder the development of Kenya? If not, does this mean that saying ‘no’ to foreign aid will surely rid Kenya and other African countries of poverty? And if it won’t, does this mean they are in no position to reject assistance?