Is aid good for Africa?

Do developed countries have a duty of aid to developing nations?

Do they have the right to decide where the aid is spent?

how does a country develop so that it no longer has a need for aid?

Should any country rely on aid?

These are some of the most important issues facing many African nations, yet they are some of the hardest questions to answer.

Here in Accra, Ghana, 18 young volunteers have come together for their ICS pre-placement training with Challenges Worldwide.
The volunteers have travelled from all over the country to take part in the programme.
They come from broad and diverse backgrounds – from teachers and poultry farmers to economists and archaeologists.
Despite their various upbringings and contrasting opinions, there is one motive that unites this group: To work together to grow their nation’s economy and help to alleviate poverty. Below are the thoughts of the group on the issue of, “Is aid good for Africa?”

“I think it has both positive and negative sides. On the positive it can help the economy develop. But it must be used wisely. On the other side, we have misuse of funds. Sometimes we get donors, they bring the money but our leaders do not use it for the right things. Also, it makes a country lazy. It makes us not work on our own to increase our own capital and our own economy.”

“We must look at the management of the aid. Proper systems are not in place to track the aid given. There must be accountability”

“We are not ready to develop ourselves yet though –  aid is needed to empower Africa to stand its own through partnerships and networks.”

“So, foreign aid is the transfer of resources, goods and expertise from a developed country to a developing country. Of course we need aid – if it were not for aid there would have been many natural disasters and crises that we could not have solved ourselves”

“Since most African leaders misuse the funds received from aid, development is retarded. If the right systems are not put in place the aid is useless.”

“Let us think about the Ebola crisis. Sierra Leone did not even have enough ambulances to support its people! If it were not for foreign aid in that situation, maybe up to 80% of the citizens would have passed away. How can you say that we do not need aid?”

We should be focussing on what we DO have. You say without the West we could not have beaten the Ebola crisis – but WHO was it that developed the cure for Ebola? It was a doctor from Sierra Leone. We Africans need to stand up and be proud of our continent. It is up to us, the youth of the continent, to use our resources wisely and believe in what we can give, rather than always focussing on what we need. Only by doing this, will we be able to develop our nations.”

“Africa has so many resources which bring revenue. We can use it to develop our own country. If our leaders are responsible, then we can live without foreign aid.”

“The Aid given to Africa is more of “giving a hungry man fish”, instead of teaching him how to fish! So long as such a trend continues, Africa will find itself cup in hand begging for aid. So yes, we need Aid but the approach has to change.”

“Aid is necessary, but Africa has to raise leaders and put systems in place to handle the aid accordingly.”

“However, sometimes the one giving the aid can benefit more that the one receiving it. Eg. China is building overhead roads in the central region of Ghana; all stakeholders and employers are from China instead of Ghana.”

“Aid can be good or bad but it depends on the situation at hand. For that reason Africa should not depend upon aid to develop their various countries.”

The conditions attached to the provision of aid sometimes hinder the development of countries receiving the aid. For example, if the aid is given with the condition that it should only be used for health sector development, but that country really needs finance for education and skills, the aid tends to have little impact.”

“In terms of need, aid is good because it helps to provide various needs that are absent in particular places, such as sophisticated, highly technical machinery.”

Aid is received to tackle emergencies such as disease outbreaks and natural disasters which can happen anywhere; not just Africa or other developing countries.

“Again, you are focussing on what we do not have! We have oil and minerals and Agricultural produce. Other nations are the ones who need this. They cannot take it unless we decide to trade it. We need to educate our youth and put systems in place so that we can dictate a good price for our goods. We have what others need. We must start looking at it in this way.”

“We have got the resources, that is correct. But money for our resources must come from outside. Take cocoa – we are producing more cocoa than any other continent, yet that cocoa is sold to outside economies. We cannot sell unless there is a demand. It is the West that have the purchasing power and it is those with the money who can dictate how much it is worth. It is called purchasing power and here in Africa we have none.”

Aid should help to improve education and provide skills to youth. This helps to reduce all poverty.

The debate went back and forth for an hour. It was respectful, passionate and inspiring. After listening to this debate and hearing such intelligent and insightful ideas and opinions I have no doubt that this programme will be a great one.
These volunteers are soon to be joined by 18 UK volunteers with equally diverse backgrounds and will work together as Business Support Volunteers in SMEs around Accra. We already have 36 engaged young citizens. Through this 12 week placement it is the hope that they will gain confidence in themselves and their abilities to realise that they really can make a difference in their communities.

Coming here has taken courage, I have no doubt that they will have the resilience to see it through.