Uganda: Aid Industry Should Close

Published on 29th November 2006

If reaction from the population in the local media counts, Ugandans are beginning to realize the fact that aid is an “unnecessary evil” they can do without. Ugandans have clearly grown wiser and are becoming tired of the whole notion of aid. Soon donors will have a run for their money. The Oxford Dictionary defines aid as “help such as money or food given by an organization to a country or people who are in a difficult situation.” Poor, manipulation, strings attached and conditionalities are not part of this definition.

The kind of aid Africa has been swimming in for the last 50 years leaves a lot to be desired. It has not benefited Africa, but acted as a weapon for manipulation. The largest portions of these donations are usually repatriated by the donor country experts attached to the particular projects the aid is given for. The project materials are also procured from donor countries. Most of the allotted money never makes it into the intended country. Moreover, there is an "unspoken politics" involved in foreign aid. The little that gets into any of the targeted countries doesn't get to those who should have benefited. More often than not, it is the elite and government functionaries that pocket and squander it. 

Putting the controversial Global Fund into perspective, has anyone ever wandered why the donors were in such a rush to disburse the money? The answer is simple. Fifty per cent of the donation was meant to be repatriated to purchase ARV’s from donor pharmaceuticals at lofty prices. In actual sense, aid is given to strengthen donor markets from manufactured products and increase employment for their citizens at home and abroad. 

This does not even begin to describe the level of donor hypocrisy when it comes to aid. They place high priority on strategic countries. Egypt, for example, doesn’t have clear traces of democracy but due to its location, it gets cool billions in aid. Jordan, a monarchy, gets a whooping billion, yet countries like Uganda, with serious evidences of democracy, receive peanuts with excess conditionality. Donors, as a rule, do not give a cent out of the sheer goodness of their heart. It is all about profit and self interest.

There is no proof that western liberal democracy translates directly to development. In any case, a nation like china, whose system completely differs from this notion is one of the biggest contenders in the field of development worldwide. Aid is injurious to a country’s psyche. It encourages laziness and dependency. In due course, recipient countries become appendages to donor states. 

We affirm our existence by accepting and respecting the existence of others, recognizing that they are sovereign beings and able to fend for themselves. Africans should be left to drive their own bus, through their own route to a destination of their choice. Africans, on the other hand, must rise to the occasion. Are Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo (Kinshasa) truly independent states when they take their marching orders from Belgium and France? Yaoundé can't take any step without getting a clearance from Paris. And when was the last time Nigeria caused a ripple without first checking with London and Washington? That Nigeria still receives foreign aids baffles me.  

What do we need foreign aid for? What do we need military and technical assistance for? We have all the necessary human and natural resources to be truly successful and independent. That America, China, Britain, Germany, Italy and others still give us a penny here and a dime there is not only ludicrous, it is insulting and demeaning!

What good would it do any self-respecting people and country to continually depend on handouts? What does our penchant for handouts tell the world about us? That we are not responsive and responsible? That but for the grace of the Global North, Africa would still be in the pit of poverty?

Like Morrison Rwakakamba, a representative of the movement government in Uganda puts it “even if the absence of aid means one meal a day, it’s better because it’s consumed in peace.” Like James Shikwati, Director Inter-region Economic Network puts it, “let’s run the aid agents out of town and get our act together.”

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