Greetings once again. Today I decided to share my view of development aid. There is this other Zambian-born-dead-aid1Havard-trained economist by the name of Dambisa Moyo who has authored a book on development-related aid. Her book, titled “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa” has generated a lot of discussion about the effectiveness of aid to Africa. In her book, Ms. Moyo argues that despite rich countries having transferred to Africa more than $1 trillion in development-related aid over the past fifty years, this assistance has not improved the lives of Africans. In fact, she argues, across the continent the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse.

To me, it was high time one bold African stood up to challenge the aid theories of the west. I have always believed that the solution to Africa’s problems does not lie in ‘free’ money from western governments. Unfortunately, our African leaders have been blinded by this greatest myth of development of our time. As a result of this misconception, the majority of African countries, Malawi inclusive, have been trapped in this vicious circle of aid dependency. In Malawi, for instance, more than 40% of the government budget is donor money. We have been receiving aid since the early 80s, but what have we got to show for it?

The irony of the EU and US

The EU and the US are top in subsidizing their farmers

It is for such reasons that I welcomed the debate raised by Ms. Moyo through her book. In my opinion, the rich countries offer aid to Africa as compensation for the unfair trade practices they promote. It is common knowledge that almost all of the rich countries subsidize their rich farmers. This essentially means the cost of producing food in rich countries is very low and so the farmers can afford to market their produce at ridiculously low prices. Because these farmers produce more than what their countries need due to the low production cost, these cheap products are in turn dumped to Africa to compete against the African smallholder farmer’s output. What’s worse – the rich countries, led by the U.S. and the EU, have been aggressively pushing  for more trade liberalisation at a time of global crises of food and fuel. The result is that the African farmers have been affected by falling commodity prices, especially of agricultural products.

A fairer global trade system would be more useful to African nations than aid, which often times ends up in the private bank accounts of presidents and/or their accomplices. Producer subsidies in the United States and Europe are threatening Africa’s agricultural industry, and these subsidies drive the African producers out of the global market, exacerbating poverty as a result. Instead of giving “free money” to Africa, the continent’s trading partners could help by working out measures that would promote demand for the continent’s products. Fair trade, NOT aid is the solution to Africa’s poverty. Let Africa trade its products with the rest of the world at competitive prices – the benefits from such a move far outweigh any amount of development aid to the continent.