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Aid – a new model?

August 28, 2009











A project in Ethiopia that helps destitute women become self-reliant by providing them with paid employment has attracted a lot of attention from politicians visiting Addis Ababa for an international get-together.

Alem Abebe is a 14-year-old girl who left home three years ago and made her way to the capital. She now earns 50 US cents a day working at the Abebech Gobena project in one of the city’s slums. It’s not enough to send money home, but enough to survive — and to pay for night school.

But by the World Bank definition, Abebe and other women working at the project are still extremely poor: they earn much less than the daily income of $1.25 or roughly one euro that’s now used to measure poverty.

But the whole point isn’t to hand out money for free: but to help women who would be on the street get a job, an education – and a future.

It’s a departure from previous aid models, which saw large sums handed over by the West to African countries, a system that some say hasn’t really helped the world’s poorest continent.

“The model that’s coming up or that I’m proposing is essentially a model where Africa and Africans become equal partners with the rest of the world, not one where there’s a donor and a recipient where Africans are viewed as secondary citizens,” Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian author, told Reuters Africa Journal.

“This is really an environment where Africans are getting something, they’re getting paid for doing something, for being entrepreneurs, for generating something, for building products, for establishing infrastructure. It’s not the aid model where you get money for nothing,” said Moyo, whose book Dead Aid argues that Western generosity often doesn’t actually help in the long run.

Today the global financial crisis means that Western countries are trying to save their own economies and are no longer prepared to spend so much on aid. So is direct aid still a solution. Or are small projects that generate employment better at fighting poverty?


The article doesn’t say very clearly how exactly this project works. However, in general any model that involves “something-for-something” has got the be better than the current ways of doing things.The endemic corruption in the current modus operandi for aid not only sidetracks politicians, civil servants and others on the “giving” side from doing what they are actually paid to do because they are so busy stealing the aid and reduces the amount of help that ends up where it’s supposed to do very significantly but, as the article points out, it doesn’t really encourage any development among the recipients either.These are more or less well-known issues. As someone who lives and works on a permanent basis in the private sector in Africa (Uganda) let me say this:One of the very worst effects of graft – be it in relation to aid or not – is the cynicism and lethargy it breeds in the population at large. It’s quite depressing to see how people end up calling these criminals “The Big Men” and it’s not meant as irony. They logically conclude, rightly so on the evidence before them, that the way to a good life is to get involved in politics, aid etc.Developing political institutions and governance at all levels – public and private sector – is an absolutely necessary precondition for really getting the wider population activated. People in Africa are, of course, generally honest and wanting to work to improve their lives like everywhere else but the evidence they see is that’s it’s not industriousness and hard work that gives you those coveted things in life like medical care, good schools for your kids, a house with running water and electricity, a car etc

Posted by Henry | Report as abusive

Whole Bureaucracies sit atop the Continent and their primary raison d’etre is to bilk the system. They stifle any entrepreneurial spirit and for the most part make Africans but a mere poster child for Western Aid and Donors. It is a Poster that serves the Bureaucracy both African and International. Many NGOs are no better, they too are invested in the current system.With the Mobile Phone, we now have an instrument to side step this Architecture. We can target right down to Individuals, in those situations of extremis.The point is the real and worthwhile Aid is to give on a commercial basis where their is a Path to empowerment and out of Poverty. MicroFinance is a way forward. Give Folk the tools to fish in the sea not the Fish, which ends up rotting from the head down.The Poor in Africa are curiously an excellent risk adjusted opportunity. The Governments for the most part are not.Aly-Khan alykhansatchu


Being responsible for yourself is key to aid. This can be done by having people helping people and NOT by big government helping big government. This includes the UN as big government.I believe individuals are willing to help other individuals but individuals are suspicious of big government and coruption by donar countries and recipient governments.There is also a tremendous waste of money on consultants who justify their work by using process’ which accomplishes very little other than having people talk and consultants getting paid for their reports. Many of these consultants are university profs who are involved in research but don’t know how to really make a difference to individuals.So, I think other models need to be implemented where success is measured by the REAL improvement of social/ economic conditions for individuals, their families and communities.

Posted by buffalojump | Report as abusive

I totally agree with Henry, as do, I think, a growing number of global citizens (Newsy, for instance, just ran a video about this exact topic at g_or_abetting).The old “handouts” model has to wither from the corruption that’s plagued it for so long. Rather, we must put the power in the hands of the ordinary African to decide to get his education and interact with the world at large. I’m concerned this model will still have the political middle-man, though, and in that sense not be much different from the original system in the potential for abuse (I see the ordinary citizen working, and then the middle-man siphoning off the payment in transit, which teaches the Africans nothing they haven’t already learned).


Whatever model functions only when there is a free and democratic leadership. In a country ruled by a tyrant and where the people live under state terrorism it is naive to think of development.Professor Yunus of Bangladesh succeeded in his grameen bank (Bank of the Poor) starting with 30 US dollars some 30-40 years ago is because Bangladesh although a poor country like Ethiopia is unlike Ethiopia not ruled by a tyrant.If you really want to change the life of the millions in Ethiopia say first and foremost no to state terrorism and backward ethnic politics whose main goal is to create a Tigrean (unlike the white supermacy in South Africa) supermacy in Ethiopia not only in politics but also in the economic sphere. That is what EFFORT which normally should be nationalized is doing by knocking out of businessmen and concentrating all and everything under the control of the Tigreans.

Posted by koster | Report as abusive

Who is actually aiding whom? Is the West actually aiding so-called poor African countries or is it the other way round?For each £1 or $1 received by the so-called poor country, the donor rich West country gets £10 or $10 in return!You tell me who benefit the most?

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

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