Is Aid Enough?

24 MB MP3

Chris’s Billboard

Africa is what they’re talking about this week: the rock stars, bankers, bleedings hearts and political chiefs of the big-8 lender nations, meeting on a golf course in Scotland. But listen carefully: they’re talking about several Africas: is it a continent or a crisis, and a cause? Is it victim of the West or of its own corrution? Will it ever be an opportunity, and a modern trading and investment partner? Is it another place, in short, or another planet? If it’s a basket case—a hospital ship adrift—aid is the urgent answer. But if your eye is on the human opportunity, and billions in old foreign-aid gone bad, the charity treatment could seem like more of the same wrong remedy. The banker nations are arguing about Tony Blair’s moral case for more aid. It’s Africans, oddly enough, who are making the case for trade, competence, and self-development. On Open Source: Africans of the rising generation are next, talking about Africa.

Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah

technologist and blogger, originally from Ghana

[in studio with Chris]

Professor Calestous Juma

From Kenya

recently wrote oped,We Need to Reinvent the African University

[in studio with Chris]

Joel Okao

Journalist, contributing to Panos’ AfricaVox, a group of African journalists writing from the G8 summit

[by phone from Edinburgh]

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  • Is corruption tied to aid? Is there a way that we can give aid and still remove corruption?

  • JDany

    I hope the big-8 leaders in their meeting take into account the urgent need to see the problems of the world as a block for it’s only a matter of time before everything spreads everywhere.

  • Vanessa

    Building infrastructure from the ground up, as it relates to the particular context in Africa seems so necessary. For a good example of how institutions from the States might help particular African communities, see this article. MIT Prof Jesus del Alamo helped reroute an internet connection to Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Students in Africa can remotely run scientific experiments and “share” experimental equipment.

  • It is impossible to talk about the continent as a whole as there are several distinctly different types of issues. You have countries like Congo that have never known anything but terror. It took 300 years of abuse to get where we are today in Congo and fixing it may take just as long.

    Then you have countries like Niger that have such a harsh environment that they may always require some sort of subsidization to exist.

    Then you have places like Ghana/Nigeria/Senegal/Tanzania (and many more) that you can enter a conversation about markets and trade

  • Have you ever seen one of those maps that stays true to relative geographic size instead of shape? In these maps, Africa is just massive. I think Adrami has a good point in that the continent is both VERY different from country to country, in addition to being spread apart. I’ve heard that the north is very different from the center, which is different from the south. Will change and progress in one country spread to another? It seems that trouble in one country can spread to another, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t happen the other way around. Does anyone have an example of this later thing happening?

  • JamesFlynn

    1970’s Ireland was compared to underdeveloped African countries in tonight’s show – a valid comparison in some respects, in that there were extremes of absolute poverty up to quite recent times in Ireland, which trade has helped transform into a relatively prosperous place.

    But I think it’s more valid however to compare the current situation in Africa to 1840s Ireland – when a famine halved the population. Parts of Africa is are in crisis – trade reform is obviously needed, but aid is also required to stop easily-preventable death, right now.

    We look back today in horror at the laissez-faire attitude of the prevailing world power at the time of the Irish Famine – London – whose attitude then was also that direct aid would be wasted on the “corrupt” and “less-civilised” Irish.

    London could have prevented the decimation of the Irish population in the 1840s – it knew what was going on, it had the logistical ability, and the aid required was trivial compared to its economic resources.

    We in the west have a similar opportunity today – so, will our generation be remembered as another generation that stood by?

  • thom

    The very real limitations of conventional aid are avoided by grass roots organizations doing bottom-up development. One such organization has been working and growing in Western Uganda since 1987 and has created miraculous results with very modest external financial support. Dedicated to “awakening the sleeping genius in each of us”, the Uganda Rural Training and

  • jc

    Accultured – – When the grass looks greener somewhere else, exploiters tend to rush to get there before someone else gets the easy pickings and before the natives get wise to the methods of the confidence men and rip-off artists. And the grass always does seem greener in areas they don’t control to such people. Thus trouble is always on the lookout for somewhere else and will spread if it can.

    On the other hand, if the grass looks just fine where one is, and the animals are well fed and content, there can seem little reason to move on. One might as well stay put and enjoy the ease and comfort of a settled life. Hence the stasis of a comfortable contentedness.

    If, on the other hand, trouble comes to such a place, the people there may need to change to a defensive mode from one with no such need in an effort to maintain their desirable existance. Or, perhaps, they must move on themselves, flee or scatter to keep from being subjected to the encroaching trouble. Either way, it is troublesome and probably causes trouble for those where the refugees are fleeing and, in turn, are being intruded upon. In most cases, even in the name of progress, change is often trouble and undesirable for happy, contented people.

    Also, what many call progress means the destruction of someone elses way of life. So one might need to consider well the meaning to others of the words “change” and “progress.”


  • thom

    The very real limitations of conventional aid are avoided by grass roots organizations doing bottom-up development. One such organization has been working and growing in Western Uganda since 1987 and has created miraculous results with very modest external financial support.

    Dedicated to “awakening the sleeping genius in each of us�, the Uganda Rural Development and Training Institute has an 18 year track record of success. See their Web site at for a fascinating lookat how to do it right. AFPF is a small foundation located in the US dedicated to supporting URDT. I am a trustee, and would welcome inquiries.

  • jc

    P.S. That is to say, perhaps such concepts should be defined and applied to oneself and allow others to do the same. Help can be offered, of course, and, where asked for, ought to be given to one’s best ability.


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