Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
Earlier this month, Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo argued that Africa needs Western countries to cut long term aid that has brought dependency, distorted economies and fuelled bureaucracy and corruption. The comments on the blog posting suggested that many readers agreed. In a response, Savio Carvalho, Uganda country director for aid agency Oxfam GB, says that aid can help the continent escape poverty – if done in the right way:
In early January, I travelled to war-ravaged northern Uganda to a dusty village in Pobura and Kal parish in Kitgum District. We were there to see the completion of a 16km dirt road constructed by the community with support from Oxfam under an EU-funded programme.
The road is bringing benefits in the form of access to markets, education and health care. Some parents say their daughters feel safer walking to school on the road instead of through the bushes. Many families have used the wages earned from construction work to pay for school fees and medical treatment. This is the impact of aid.
Having lived and worked in east Africa, I have witnessed the positive effects of aid. But done badly, it can be very limiting and even has the potential to create more harm. To avoid this, it must be provided within an enabling environment in which it is used as a catalyst for change and not as an end in itself. Governments must show leadership through an accountable system.
HIV infection rates in Africa have slowed since the start of the decade, but statistics still make very grim reading on the worst affected continent – of the global total of 2.1 million deaths due to AIDS in 2007, 1.6 million were in sub-Saharan Africa.
An estimated 1.7 million people were infected with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2007 compared to 2.2 million new infections in 2001.
Given that the leaders of the world’s most firmly capitalist countries are splashing around unprecedented billions to nationalise banks, prop up industry and try to get economies moving, it might seem churlish for anyone to question South Africa’s ruling ANC for planning to spend a bit more freely.
This weekend, the African National Congress set out its election manifesto priorities of creating jobs and improving education and health – promises interpreted by many as marking a generally leftward shift under the leadership of president in waiting Jacob Zuma.
Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua took office a year ago promising to pursue free-market reforms launched by his predecessor, Olusegun Obasanjo, vowing zero tolerance for corruption and listing seven national priorities including improving power supply and reducing food insecurity.
A year on, his critics say economic reforms are grinding to a halt, his anti-corruption efforts are just window-dressing and his cabinet is largely a collection of ineffective bureaucrats who are but a shadow of an all-star cast in the former administration.