Development-aid and its role within the African developmental frontiers
Prof Brando Okolo
Development-aid is a necessity not only for the least developed and moderately developed nations in Africa but also for the highly developed nations. This type of aid should ensure that the human social development is brought to a level where it can self sustain and assume own growth initiatives. Aid funds deployed from the boardrooms of rich organisations and parliamentary floors of wealthy nations to assist Africa become self reliant are often sliced-up by fund and project managers before it arrives desperate communities in Africa. Africans will not have the full benefits of development assistance if the current cash-flow regimes are not modified in order to adequately fund development projects. Whilst corruption, poor accountability and incompetence are identified as key set-backs against aid driven development in Africa, new methods and highly innovative approaches are now required to tackle the problem of development in Africa. Together with poverty and hunger, damage to the African environment is an issue with equal rights on the framework of African development. It is here argued that the lack of distinction between development-aid and emergency-aid has a negative influence on African development. In conclusion, fair trade practices, global intolerance against bad African leadership, relaxation of immigration restrictions on African countries, investment in skilled labour, honest cooperation in transportation, energy, health, agriculture, and assisting Africa protect its environment, are cited as key areas requiring massive funding in order to help Africa develop in a sustainable manner.
Keywords: Aid, Africa, Human Development Index, Millennium Development Goals, Carbon footprint.
“Developmental aid” is as complex as the word sounds. “Development” entails rising above a certain statutory level; might be social, financial, faith or professional. “Aid” on the other hand bears the hallmark of assistance, help or can also mean an entity with the capacity of leveraging a system from a condition of inefficiency. These two words together in whichever form; Development Aid or Aid development, are magical in a manner hard to understand.
Consider that for the past 35 years developmental-aid has been a term used to describe trade, diplomatic, cultural and even educational relations between the developed countries and developing countries. Consider also that for 35 years this term has undergone several forms of definitions and indeed transformations in order to reflect the politics of the season. So when it became politically incorrect to categorize geo-political entities by the terms; “first world, second world and third world”, development-aid made a clear shift from ideologically driven undertones to outright capitalistic driven intentions.
Developmental aid to Africa has been hot topic for the past 25 years. This is because about twenty-five years ago most of the African countries were deep in national conflicts requiring that they receive aid to reconstruct, rehabilitate and recover. The conflicts in Africa offer a different form of opportunity to advance development-aid than that in Central America or Asia. African culture and the African diversity are essentially responsible for the nature of conflicts operative on the continent because we disagree not merely along political lines but also along religious, ethnic/tribal and economic lines. The fault lines produced by a combination of these leanings are special and can require a prolonged infusion of development-aid to repair.
Realities of the development-aid process
Does Africa need aid in order to develop? Yes she does. Is 35 years a sufficient time-frame to get a country well positioned to reject development-aid? No, it is not, even in developed countries. Development-aid is needed when a country is experiencing any crisis which threatens the very existence of its people. Setting a time-cap on development-aid deployed to African countries is not proper. However, what is proper is to periodically refine the forms of aid African countries receive. There are countries that need aid for the development of their agricultural sector and there are those that need aid for the development of civil infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals and police force. There is also emergency aid which must be distinguished from development-aid. Sadly much of the aid destined for Africa is of an emergency nature.
Whilst the incidence of hunger and diseases appear persistent over much of the African continent efforts to control them have proven not entirely successful over the years. Even though there has been a considerably high global awareness in recent times over the socio-economic plight of countries on the African continent, political leaders, men of goodwill and activists are still unable to significantly eliminate food crisis and lower the death rate from hunger. The reason for these inefficiencies is because the credentials of custodians of aid to Africa are not fitting.
An irritating report appeared in the November 2007 edition of the New African magazine, detailing the mechanisms employed by aid donors to Africa. That report revealed that aid donors to Africa deliberately set-up processes down the fund-stream which ensures that the financial resources set aside for assistance to developing countries are markedly drained before it reaches the needy communities. Consulting firms from the aid-donating countries are awarded contracts of very large sums of money sourced from funds dedicated for fighting poverty in desperate communities in Africa. Aid-donating bodies have practices firmly embedded in their fine-prints which give them impetus to squander public and private funds raised for aid.
Supervision and accountability are key aspects of the development-aid process which have received less forceful over-sight from custodians of aid fund. It is not quite clear why supervision and accountability are not forcefully projected within an aid structure. However there are a variety of possibilities why very little action on supervision and accountability is taken. (i) Aid donating bodies intend that poor supervision and accountability will offer them a necessary chance to lay the blame of failed development-aid projects at the door-steps of the indigenous representatives of aid-receiving communities; (ii) the flow path of development-aid funds especially those destined for African nations are anyway less scrutinized by auditors and so donor-nation representatives are free to slice-up the funds as offerings to service and consulting firms without repercussions; (iii) Development-aid funds included in national budgets must be spent even when portions of it are clearly misused by dishonest managers resident in Africa, for failure to spend the funds can either lead to elimination of the funded item from budgets or lead to bad business profits for the donor-nation firms concentrated up-stream the fund flow. Figure 1 illustrates the accountability capacities of organisations involved at various levels of global development . The best ranked organisation; United Nations Development Programme, scores 88% on a scale of 100%, based on a cumulative percentile points from four parameters. These parameters are: “transparency” where it ranked number 2, “participation” ranked number 1, “evaluation” ranked number 2 and “complaint and response” ranked number 4. The simple question then is, “why isn’t there a 100% transparency in a publicly funded program which was set-up to manage development in weak societies and why isn’t there a 100% performance on ‘complaint and response’?”. Clearly with such measures of accountability capacities, the UNDP together with the organisations like the African Union need to explain why they are unable to meet the 100% mark.
A significant fraction of the aid reaching African countries is indeed for emergency situations and not for development. Emergency aid lacks the essential substance needed to cause development. It is aid organised around a crisis situation with all its elements exhausted towards immediate survival and life saving projects. By this the boundary conditions which can herald a sensible transition from emergency aid giving to development-aid giving are blurred-out. Therefore a large population of Africans who appropriately should be benefiting from development aid are trapped in a seemly endless emergency aid project. Obviously under such an aid regime, the prudence required by global leaders to cause development in Africa is diluted thus relegating the idea of development to an unforeseeable future.
Professor Brando Okolo, African Heritage Man of the year 2011 is a full Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the German University in Cairo – Egypt