Should Western countries stop sending financial aid to Sub-Saharan Africa?

And let them work out things on their own or start large scale projects there?

It’s clear that the aid we send there doesn’t get to the people but instead goes into the pockets of the rulers.

For example in 2015 Kenya received $752 million in aid. Where did it go to? I’ve been to Kenya twice (three weeks in 2005 staying with a family and again in 2015 doing a project). Although Kenya has changed quite a bit like the airport, the roads (which some were built by the Chinese), I seriously doubt that the money has seen the light of day.

So is it time to force our governments to start building schools and colleges in Africa for young people so that the next generation of leaders are less corrupt and less tribalistic? Wouldn’t that be a good project to start in an African country like Kenya? Or is this perhaps a business for the US, UK and other countries?

What do you think?

Yes. At best the money is useless. More likely it’s harmful. We should open markets and engage in free trade instead. Other countries in Europe and Asia were until quite recently as poor as countries in Africa. If they can pull theselves up, so can African countries.

What European countries are you referring to? I cannot think of one European country having recently “pulled itself up” from a comparable level of poverty without receiving substantial foreign aid.

That said: I agree that financial aid given to African countries seems to be severely lacking in effectiveness. One thing it does though is provide European governments with a form of leverage. I am sure any hint that the yearly cheque might just not come next year will myke many a government think favorably about European policy suggestions.

Maternal mortality has fall by 44% in sub-Saharan Africa since 1990, and child mortality is at an all time low. The death toll of HIV/AIDS has begun to reverse, in some places dramatically. Guinea worm and polio are about to be eradicated. Secondary school enrollment rates rose 48% from 2000-2008. Real income has risen 30% in the last 10 years, and as a whole the growth rate is projected at 6% a year. Africa has gone from 3 democracies to 25 since the end of the Cold War. The number of coups per decade has halved. When I arrived in Cameroon in 2006, my town didn’t have a single library and the nearest internet connection was three hours away. It had just received cell phone reception for the first time. Now, everyone is posting baby pictures on Facebook.

There are still huge, massive problems, and every country has a different story. But overall, Africa is growing at a remarkable pace and today is the best time in history to be African.

There’s good aid and bad (or pointless) aid. When there are real-time people-dying-by-the-minute emergencies (mass famine/drought, overflowing refugee camps, etc.), then food aid and the like can be the difference between life and death for tens of thousands or more. When there’s just large-scale poverty and disease, but not in any new and emergent way, then it might be different.

For example – I’ve read that mosquito nets, which are very cheap and effective against malaria, are much more likely to be used if they are sold cheaply. When they are handed out freely, the studies found that people assumed they were worthless, and cut them up to use them for fishing or for other purposes; but when sold for a few pennies or so, people used them and malaria rates went down in those regions.

Further – food aid can sometimes put local farmers out of business. In the past, excess food grown in the US was shipped overseas (purchased by the US government from US farmers), and this meant that local farmers couldn’t compete, hurting the local people in whatever destination it was. To feed hungry people, local food (or nearby, if local is unavailable) should be purchased and distributed or sold at a big discount.

I don’t think aid should be eliminated, but done more smartly.

Are these improvements due to grassroots improvements by Africans, by international NGOs, by Chinese investors, by more accountable African governments or what exactly?

Its a mix. Economically, foreign investment, remittances, and new technology has been huge. Cell phone technology alone has opened many doors. And China’s rise has made ripples (and waves) everywhere.

NGOs have had a real impact in health, and of course the work put in to making HIV treatment available has been transformative. I think NGOs have had a heavy hand in education as well. But NGOs work in all kinds of places that have a smaller impact- places like supporting local journalism, encouraging better business laws, combatting deforestation, etc. it’s not all the obvious stuff, and it’s not all easy to measure.

Politically, we are seeing the end of the long post-Colonial/Cold War hangover. The leaders that were hand-picked to support/fight Communism are dying off and Africa is finally able to develop politically. And yes, IMHO aid has been a powerful incentive for leaders to get their act together.

It’s worth considering that official aid is a part of a larger picture that includes the donor’s political and economic interests. Fostering stable, healthy, prosperous countries is not all (or even primarily) about the warm fuzzies- failed states, epidemics and bad economies aren’t good for anyone.

It’s also worth noting that foreign aid is less than 1% of the US budget.

(And kindly note my contributions to this thread are entirely my personal opinion)

Most african nations would suffer horribly without external help, even though waste and corruption are so endemic.

You need to define what exactly is “aid”. Very little is handouts, most of what is called “aid” is in actuality a loan. Or more often a subsidy. You pay a company in your own country to undertake a project in another country. The money never is touched by the “recipient”, who will often have little or no role in running the project.

Although I disagree with even sven on most thing, I have to say, that telecommunications has transformed nations and fates. A thousand years from now, future historians will pribably consider the telecommunication revolution as important as we consider the Industrial one and one which has been a lot more uniform across the globe.

I don’t necessarily have a problem with foreign aid per se but I think there is a lot of decaying infrastructure in the U.S. that was built in the 70’s that is falling apart that needs to be repaired or replaced. I think the U.S. should be investing more heavily in the welfare of it’s own citizens.

Many governments have very much corruption. But this doesn’t make it right to abandon the continent; let’s just work to make the aid itself less corrupt or corrupting.

BTW, right-wingers often complain about money “wasted” on foreign aid. Invariably they are ignorant of both how tiny the total aid is as a percentage of federal spending, and the fact that the vast majority of aid has no altrusitic purpose but is given with military purpose (e.g. Pakistan) or to countries which the U.S. itself broke (e.g. Iraq).


There’s two huge misconceptions with foreign aid: first, that the US and other countries spend a lot of their national budgets on foreign aid; and second, that a lot of foreign aid is simply sending a check to some government somewhere.

In reality, foreign aid is about one percent of the US budget; and most foreign aid projects involve some kind of specific effort - anything from building infrastructure to funding an NGO to hold a conference on labor reforms.

The county that seems to be following the OP’s advice to let the market sort it out is China. Chinese companies come in, build big mines or whatever, pay workers shit, import the raw materials, and sell the fruits of the exploited labor to Walmart and whatnot. That should be the focus of people’s outrage.

$752 million isn’t really a lot in the grand scheme of things. That’s about $17 per every Kenyan. The US gives $20 billion each year to our own farmers whether they need it or not.

I don’t know how much you think new airports cost, but a typical international airport costs billions of dollars for all the runways and terminals and whatnot.

I did a quick Google and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya is planning a new modern ILS equipped runway expansion that will cost about $145 million.

The right-ish attitude of “just let the free markets sort it out” is simplistic and misleading. It’s hard to have free markets when you have corrupt governments.

I agree-most “AID” is counter-productive. It (mostly) winds up in the Swiss bank accounts of corrupt local politicians. it would be far better to buy local products, from local producers…this would generate jobs, and open up the markets. Take the case of Haiti-for decades, the USA dumped money into Haiti-and poverty actually increased. meanwhile, US “food aid” drove local farmers out of business-a classic example was the USDA telling Haitian pig farmers to slaughter all their native pigs-and substitute American pigs. The end result was, the American pigs died, and the farmers went broke.

The present U.K. foreign aid policy is rubbish, we give aid to a country to educate children living in poverty stricken areas, we also give money to the same country for flood defences, the country itself spends 10 billion pounds developing a nuclear bomb. While back home in the U.K. thousands of elderly people will die from hypothermia this winter as they cannot afford to heat their homes
I am not against foreign aid but it has to targeted at specific projects on condition that the countries government pay in equal funding

Which is based upon your own experience with the Peace Corps, I believe? And further formal study of relevant issues. Not just repeating what you heard on some talk show.

Looking on the big picture of corporate tax breaks going to companies outsourcing jobs & maintaining the greatest military industrial complex on the planet, US expenditure on foreign aid is petty cash. We could even afford to improve our own infrastructure–if budget decisions were made more wisely.

What country is this?

Pakistan? Israel? North Korea?

As to the OP, aid has amazing short term to mid-term benefits; trade has amazing long-term benefits. Both are good for different goals.

You are correct that there are pitfalls and unintended consequences in aid. The entire idea of foreign aid is relatively new (post WWII for the most part) and we’ve learned a lot in a short time, often through trial and error.

At this point, there are enough academics and professionals thinking these through that the obvious traps are well known. And we have become MUCH more sophisticated at measuring impact, drawing on everything from big data to random control trials.

With that in mind, weird stuff still happens. When it does, it’s quite likely that there is a reason behind it, either politically or because