Aid or Raid?

Since time in memorial Africans have held on to the constructed ideology that we are inferior to others around the world. Well there may be a base for this as for a long time we have been at the receiving end of aid.

Limitless development assistance to African governments seems to have consolidated this notion, encouraging dependency and doing little to change the development trajectory of the continent. Unfortunately, often times when such funds are received, very little if any reaches those who are most in need. We witness an increase in cases of corruption as has been seen through UK aid for malaria in Zambia. Meanwhile, many continue to fall victim to development challenges such as poverty. Faced with these challenges, African states are then tied to paying huge debts for years instead of focusing on national development.

I take a case example of my country, Zambia. During the period that the country was under colonial rule, certain good tidings were bestowed on the land that indeed positively impacted the future of the country. Colonialism for example brought about education, through the building of schools, and religion, which eliminated some harmful traditional practices such as sacrifices for atonement in which the blood of animals, birds and even human was used. Colonialism also increased the transfer of technology and capital to local industries and individuals alike, resulting in overall increased productivity. Farmers for instance were introduced to farming equipment and chemicals that led to greater portions of land being cultivated and greater yields. Additionally, colonialism fostered ideals of democracy, respect for human rights and good governance that inspired the ideas that led to Zambia’s independence.

Also worthy of note, the colonial masters discovered enormous copper deposits in the region which became known as Copperbelt. But because colonialization began with the sole idea of exploiting  natural resources, without sustainable management, It eventually led to the destruction of wildlife confinements and forestry. For instance the Nchanga open pit mine in Chingola used to be completely covered with greenery and was home to wildlife including monkeys. While being stripped of its resources over the years, Zambia remains in  debt and continues to suffer from a range of developmental  challenges.

Nchanga Copper Mine | BlueSalo | wikimedia


With such knowledge, fifty-four years down the line, one may question whether Zambia is really free  and whether she has anything left to feed her citizens.  Although Zambia’s resources have depleted, there is still so much more to utilise, The country still has untapped mineral resources; such as uranium, oil and diamond, as well as favourable climatic conditions in most parts such as Northern, Northwestern and Southern Province. Even in the seemingly arid areas , there are crops that can be grown. The country has several  water resource including the famous Zambezi River, Kafue River and Lake Kariba.

If Zambia is to survive and thrive, policy makers must think long term and fully understand the impact of some of the engagements and treaties we are signing and their impact on future generations. There is a need to only accept what is mutually beneficial. Indeed, the path to long-term development would only be achieved if relevant stakeholders  all stand up and harness the countries resources and potential for the benefit of wider society. The involvement of the private sector, integrity in government, respect for human rights and free market solutions are what will sustain the nation.

I agree with the bold argument Dambisa Moyo makes in her book Dead Aid when she says that aid distorts incentives among policymakers and society. It makes governments less accountable to their citizens, has led to civil wars, rampant corruption (electoral and otherwise), and has been central to an undercurrent of irresponsibility culminating in increased and self-reinforcing poverty since independence from colonialism.

African governments have been eager receivers of aid, they literally go out looking for help before finding solutions at home. Should aid abruptly stop?  Probably not, because this will have its own adverse effects, rather each of us , the policy makers and citizens, ought to be clear-headed managers of this western generosity. Let us invest in public confidence, private savings and Investments.

Featured image | “Humanitarian assistance” painting | | flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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