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Donor Aid - a necessary evil

by Ruth Aine - 20 January 2014

A few days ago I was at a meeting. The usual that take place in air conditioned rooms for about 3 days running. On one of these days, there was a youth panel. The panel was the first ever to be held in about 8 years of these conferences. As the youth spoke about what they believed was their role in society, they kept giving examples of initiatives led and executed by the youth. Majority of these were not self financed. They were donor financed. I remember John Armah who has been termed Ghana's youngest entrepreneur talking about some of the initiatives that he has put in place to support and help youth. One of them is Ghana Center for Entrepreneurship, Employment and Innovation [GCEEI]. This is supported by very many organizations among them, donor organizations.


A day later I met an amazing person that has made a mark in Zimbabwe through Social Media. He holds weekly Twitter conversations using the hashtag #Chat263. He is called Sir Nigel. However once in a while there are physical meetings between tweeps [people on twitter] and politicians, business leaders talking about issues that affect Zimbabwe while putting to task, those in charge to answer questions. These meetings are supported by the Netherlands embassy and the US embassy.

These great initiatives could have been supported by our home grown companies. We have companies and organizations that make a lot of money. But we would rather put our money in off shore accounts instead of investing back into our own countries. As a result, we have no real, authentic initiatives that belong to us without entertaining donors’ agendas. This pains my heart.

The majority of the institutions that are doing well and very organized are all donor funded. Take for instance the anti-retroviral program for people living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, more than 70% of those currently on the program are supported by donor funding. The Government of Kenya recently proposed a bill to reduce the percentage of external funds allowed for non-profits. This was received with widespread outcry and criticism as like most other countries in Africa, NGOs on the continent largely rely on external funding to run their programs as home-grown support are very few.

Going forward into the future; are we not worried that we are slowly by slowly depending on donor aid and not allowing ourselves to believe otherwise? The common belief in Kampala where I live is that once you have graduated, all you need is to get a job with a non-governmental organisation [NGO] and you will earn a lot of money. This mentality shows a lot of dependence on aid. NGO's usually have funding for their problems from outside of the continent, hence they are 'rich' organizations to work for right out of university.

But then again, giving and receiving alms has become acceptable in society and so our governments and our organizations do it without thinking. It comes naturally. Yes, governments get judged by it and celebrities proselytize the need for it. Our leaders will wear tuxedos to go and beg as the rest of the world calls for more aid. Already about $ 50 billion of international assistance comes to Africa every year. Where does it go and what do we use it for?

There is an overwhelming support for Aid, but we least talk about its negative effects. Aid is seen as a life saver but we forget that once we learn to live as beggars then we shall always beg. And I wonder, what precedent are we setting for the future?

This insidious aid culture has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the changes of the currency markets and more unattractive to higher-quality investment. “says Dambisa Moyo. I couldn't agree more.


Ruth Aine Tindyebwa
Blogger/Online Communications

Read her personal blog; IN DEPTH which is at www.ruthaine.com

Read more about the author and her view on being a futurist.



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