Socio-economic Development Through Foreign Aid and Local NGOs in Africa Demystified

Africa has experienced unprecedented economic growth over the years. However, our socio-economic position, leaves little to be desired. Over 40% of Africans are still living in extreme poverty. This, coupled with the fact that over half of the world’s population living with HIV and AIDS live in Sub-Saharan Africa, counters the ability for Africa to match its economic growth through socio-economic development.

Efforts to partner with communities to fight against poverty and other socio-economic issues have been devised by various organizations and the state. Ethiopia for example, has invested in the agricultural industry, with a predicted 10% growth in the coming years. Over the past decade, Mozambique has seen an average annual growth rate of 6-8%. That success, due largely to investment in natural gas, coal, titanium and hydroelectric production looks to continue with projections of 7.3% in 2016 and 2017. This has unfortunately not been enough to counter the severe socio-economic challenges in Africa. Therefore, it has become a norm, over the years, to employ foreign aid and NGOs in order to fill in the gaps.

United States and United Kingdom institutions are key contributors of foreign aid, making up 12% to 17% of the total foreign Aid received globally. Ethiopia is a major recipient of aid (7%).  Furthermore, United Nations (UN) agencies have dedicated their resources to developing Africa.  The United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa for example was established in 2003 to enhance international support for African development and security and to improve coordination of UN system support.  It also works to facilitate global deliberations on Africa, particularly with respect to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development — a strategic framework adopted by African leaders in 2001.

The social development sector is growing rapidly. In South Africa alone, there are more than 100 000 registered non-profit organisations and in Kenya the number of NGOs grew by over 400% between 1997 and 2006. Those providing foreign aid have received backlash over their inability to incorporate the community in their involvement in social development. Foreign Aid suppliers are not local suppliers; therefore this fails to accurately deal with the issue of disempowered Africans who are unable to assist themselves. Donating food parcels from foreign states to Africans who have not learned the “art of fishing” does not accurately deal with the issue of capacitating and empowering Africans.

Furthermore, in countries where corruption is thriving, foreign aid never gets to the hands of the right people. The notion of “do not bite the hand that feeds you” echoes in the relationship between donor countries and African states that allow for mismanagement, misappropriation and poor administration of the relationship between the two parties.

The maladministration of funds and the process of validating NGOs have recently been placed under scrutiny in South Africa, were the Life Esidimeni crisis led to the death of 143 mentally ill patients at the hands of an unregistered NGO. This leads us to the duty of state authorities in ensuring that aid received for the development of Africa falls in the right hands is used by the right people and for the right cause and a rigorous effort is followed in administering the alleviating socio economic challenges in Africa as well as contributing to the social development of Africa holistically.

It is pivotal to view aid not only as a tool to assist, but as one that through the right administration, is correctly allocated and facilitated. Furthermore, it should not only deal with issues on the surface but also develop Africans to help themselves.

Featured image | Humanitarian aid unloading | Julien Harneis : 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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