Tuesday, 4 February 2014

What does Development mean to you (Part II)... "Aiding Aid to work better for Africa"

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article entitled, "What does development mean to you... Never miss the value for the money"

I know and understand that the post was not that popular because it carried a little bit of mind-boggling issues. My apologies, but the whole idea is to trigger thoughts outside the box and to foster dialogue, so that at the end of the day, we all get the fundamentals right and we are operating on the same wavelength.

By the way, we are still celebrating the "Year of Agriculture and Food Security (I usually call it the YoAFS)" and the "Year of Family Farming." And I am becoming really excited by the increasing amount of YoAFS "multimedia traffic" I am encountering in the digital space.Was just having a look at the AU page for the YoAFS, and check out a glimpse of it below:

Anyway, before I get carried away, let me talk about what I really want to talk about. In my earlier "Development Perspectives Article" I raised a number of issues, like whether the world is making the right investments in Africa, developing the right skills, making the right policy and regulatory decisions and so forth. Of course, I talked about aid subtly, but today, I want to share a few thoughts on aid after reading and learning quite a bit from the 2014 Bill and Melinda Gates annual letter. One of the most optimistic notes from the letter is that 7 out of 10 of the fastest growing countries today are African, so forgive me if I tend to maintain a bias towards Africa.

Aid, don't just "add" the Aid
First I would like to clarify that this is not argument against aid. One of the most crucial lessons I have learnt about a "barefoot" approach to learning and development, is that "Development essentially is about People". Hence the question is really not, "is Aid good or bad?" I guess the more fundamental question today is, how can we better use Aid to advance and positively transform people's lives. What are the critical investments and development pathways that we should channel Aid to so as to develop a complete, healthy, productive and self-reliant person. 

In as much as aid has contributed to significant health breakthroughs like malaria and polio and has provided a fall back for the vulnerable in times of severe crisis or disaster, I still believe that aid could do better if focused on addressing some specific, critical bottlenecks to personal and community empowerment such as infrastructure, markets, technology, networks, energy, education etc. While there is much being done in pockets of projects, there is more that could be achieved if these projects could be scaled and dealt with at macro levels. 

If we believe in helping build a prosperous Africa in the next 50 years, there might be need to revisit our approach to aid from "adding" more Aid to "aiding" it to work better. Africa needs more focused and empowering investments. 

There is potential for greater returns from aid if more Aid is spent not on doing things for people, BUT helping people do things for themselves. Africa has a great potential and this potential will only be realized through partnership, yes partnership even with foreign aid, but these partnerships can only be effective if Aid is focused onto the right spots in the right quantities, at the right time, and there should be no compromise.

This is not only an issue for the donors. Recipient countries of aid need to know for themselves the most effective areas or targets for Aid. 

Inequality: Africa's development Cancer 
I really like to acknowledge B&MG's allusion to the issue of corruption and aid. And I am in full agreement with their view that advances in ICT will also help curb corruption in the future. My take is that, this is one of the ways of aiding Aid to work better: Channeling Aid towards the fight against the drivers of inequality such as corruption. 

Corruption disempowers, the low income-earners who often do not have the bribes or the right "political relationships" to access better services and richer opportunities. Corruption concentrates wealth around a certain minority rather than distributing it among the majority.

Though B&MG express a certain degree of comfort by claiming that corruption is an insignificant tax on aid, the impact of corruption in Africa in the public and private sector is a big Cancer to Africa's development goals and will continue to do so in the next decades and may hamper the optimistic predictions of a better life if not curbed effectively. 

I was reading an ActionAid report that revealed that in a certain African country, one Member of Parliament estimates that perhaps 20% of the agriculture budget goes missing. In another African country, a leading public policy institute estimates that 20–30% of the agriculture budget goes missing, regardless the government's pledge to fight corruption. 

Corruption fuels/drives inequality, and inequality stifles development. The 2013 Human Development Report states that "It will be neither desirable nor sustainable if increases in the Human Development Index (HDI) value are accompanied by rising inequality in income..." Sub Saharan Africa still has the highest inequality in health according to the same report. 

Improving ICT, improving the quality of education and civic engagement will contribute to fighting corruption and can aid Aid to work better for Africa.

Well, that's my take, what do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment