Why Does Africa Still Rely on Foreign Aid?

Why Does Africa Still Rely on Foreign Aid?

The striking contrast between Africa’s outcry for help and its very rich supply of natural resources amazes the average westerner as much as it baffles the average African. To think that the resources which first attracted westerners to the continent in the late 1800s are still far from being exhausted is even more interesting to consider. 

Africans agree that the continent is rich…

Rightly so! Many logs of timber, bags of cocoa and coffee, an unending supply of mineral resources to the West confirms the claim that Africa, as a continent, is rich. So why does a continent, whose people are arguably more blessed in terms of natural resources need help from those they are supposed to be helping? 

Africans decry exploitation of their resources

But is the case that simple? Not really. The complexity of the problem trails back to colonial days. Our history, as a continent holds a number of answers to the problem of African insufficiency today, and the answers are too glaring for any reasonable person to ignore. 

When western nations struggled for a share of the African pie, in order to benefit from the resources of Africa, the strategies they employed were designed to maintain influence and control even over generations unborn. Contrary to popular opinion, these western explorers or exploiters were more interested in conquering the minds of the people than in taking their resources. Take a look at many African nations today and you can tell this is true. 

Why Africa still relies on Western support

The strategies put in place by the French and the effects on the territories she colonized present an interesting case study. The idea or rationale behind policies like assimilation was to turn the inhabitants of colonized territories to French citizens, howbeit, second class French citizens. The effect was that the colonized people first regarded French colonizers as superior, considering it a privilege to subscribe to their way of life, language and culture.

Worse still, it made the colonized “willing subjects” or puppets of the colonial powers. Since colonial masters reasoned that it would be hard to forcefully control the people, they pulled their leaders close, gave them a false sense of importance and power while ruling the people through these leaders. 

This brought about a sense of loyalty and allegiance to their colonial masters that has survived till date. Many African leaders, long after independence still keep strong ties and pay allegiance to former colonial masters, submitting especially their politics and economy to these “masters”. It’s a form of control that has rightly given birth to the term Neo-Colonialism. 

Then there is foreign aid, which is in fact hurting the continent. Foreign aid seems to be a form of aid most African countries are in dire need of. But for a number of reasons, hundreds of millions of dollars sent to the continent every year as aid seems to be causing more harm than good. Besides it is clear that if foreign aid is what Africa needed, she must have been well on her feet financially by now, needing no further help from abroad.

The world bank reports that of the 700 million people who went above the poverty line worldwide between 1981 and 2010, over 89% were from China, a country that has received much less foreign aid than any African country. Clearly, the issue is not with foreign aid. Its in the misappropriation of the funds that encourages the constant cycle of dependency.

Underlying political interests influence the process through which aid is transferred from the donors, through governments and NGOs to target citizens. Donors cannot in reality supervise the use of foreign aid because of conflicting interests and bureaucratic bottlenecks. So, the money given ends up stirring embezzlement and fraud, widening the gap between rich and poor. 

The corruption of course does not end at the level of foreign aid misappropriation. It is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into many African countries. Corruption encourages implementation of poor economic policies to keep leaders in power who can never have enough. It strangles growth efforts and suffocates the dreams of many young people who then consider travelling abroad as the best alternative.

These young, vibrant promising citizens know their continent is rich, but the prospect of taking advantage of its riches is bleak, especially for those from poor backgrounds. 

Does Africa have a chance?

Africa sure has a future. And the future is what its leaders and children determine it will be. Africans can decide to stop foreign dependence, take responsibility for developing its resources, creating economic platforms for growth and establishing an enabling political and socio-economic atmosphere.

If this happens, the continent will in a short while be in the position of giving foreign aid, even to those who are now her benefactors. 


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Comments on Why Does Africa Still Rely on Foreign Aid?

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