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.

For individuals, access to resources – including aid - is like an investment. Aid can build up poor people’s assets, support good governance and enhance skills and capacities to bring about transformation. But it can become a bane when it makes communities dependent, lazy and hopeless. Governments, aid agencies and the United Nations need to ensure the delivery of aid is well planned and coordinated, leading to higher self-reliance among poor communities.