Developed Countries And The Politics Of Foreign Aid In Africa By Anjorin Oludolapo Charles
“By philosophy, the mind of man comes to itself and from henceforth rests on itself without foreign aid and is completely master of itself as the dancer of his feet, or the boxer of his hands.” – Johann Gottlleb Flchte.
WHAT IS FOREIGN AID? Foreign aid simply refers to assistance which takes different forms, given by one country or group of countries or organizations to another country (recipient).
In an attempt to unravel the diverse types of foreign aid which the western imperialist regularly doles out to the less developed countries of the third world countries especially Africa, it will be necessary to clearly categorize them into the following:
Military aid: This is simply the transference of military personnel, arms, armament and advice from a giver state to a recipient state. Basically, it comprises of the outright gift of military weapons and training to a recipient nation. This is carried out without any gruesome cost as it is free of charge. Sometimes, the weapons are sold at a reduced price in comparison to those sold or procured at the world market. Take for instance, on may 12, 2000. President Clinton of United States authorized a C-17 aircraft, to deliever “ammunitions and other supplies and equipments” to support the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone.
Another class of aid which differs from the above is the Technical Assistance aid. This form of aid involves the transfer of expertise, and knowledge from the donor state to a recipient state. It could also include personnel from the donor state going to the recipient state to educate and train personnel of recipient nations in the act of handling technical and extraordinary machines.
Grant and Commodity Import Programs is another archetypal kind of aid. Grants involves donation of gifts and money to the developing nations while commodity import programs connotes an economic aid arrangement which is designed to insert large amount of capital into the economy of the recipient nation to help fuel its industrialization, growth, and self-sufficiency.
However, another model of aid that needs to be critically examined is the Developmental Loan aid. Developmental loans are loans that are granted to Less Developing countries to assist them develop their economy. This form of aid, enables the recipient state to have a long time to repay the loan. Take for instance the recent $1.1 billion loan given to Nigeria by the Chinese government in 2013.
We also have another example of aid which is Social and Cultural in nature. This form of aid includes the transfer of educational books and materials which helps in shaping cultural activities, donation of food, and drugs in times of food scarcity or natural catastrophe etc. an illustration of these involves the ‘Live Aid for Africa’ in 1986 to help Ethiopia, vaccines to Nigeria by UNICEF.
Having examined the major types of aid that exist, it is imperative to know that all these aforementioned types of aid can generally be referred to as ‘Economic Aid’.
So also, foreign aid can come from individual nations, or from an international body. And if a nation gives aid, it is known as ‘Unilateral aid’ but if comity of nations such as the UNO or AU or African Development Bank renders aid, it is known as ‘Multilateral aid’.
In a broader sense, foreign aid is always given by the donor nations on her own terms; and these terms are always aligned towards the national interest of the donor state and in most cases, it is always to the detriment of the recipient nation. The positive uses of aid to the recipient nation could be said to be marginal because of the strings that is usually attached to it.
The regrets of giving and receiving of foreign aid as far as Africa is concerned is that most foreign aid appears on a unilateral platform from individual nations. These individual nations are mainly the well-to-do, or industrialized nations. These developed countries are called well-to-do because of their high functional level in the facets of science and technology, and because of their well tailored bureaucracies, the basic needs of life that is made available to their people- food, shelter, and clothing as well as equal distribution of wealth, and provision of functional infrastructural facilities like roads, airports, seaports amongst others. Some of these developed nations have even taken a quantum leap by advancing into outer space like the moon to do research, and tap into the untapped resources that are inactive and stagnated on these planets.
Now to the crux of the matter, have you ever thought out why all these developed countries prefer to give aid to African states directly instead of passing it to multi-lateral bodies as the United Nations? The answer is not far-fetched. It’s contained in the politics of international system. The western nations want to be in charge while administering aid to the recipient country and they also attach some conditions to the aid that the recipient country has no other choice but to fulfill. The aphorism, “He who plays the piper dictates the tune” applies here.
For instance, if the UK Authorities wants to give Economic (financial) assistance to Nigeria, knowing well that the state need the money to pay for their debt, the UK authorities can insist that we should open up our economy more for British companies. If the United State government wants to train the Nigerian soldiers on their own turf, free of charge, the USA can seize this chance to brainwash our high ranked military officers to uphold and promote capitalism, and imperialism in Nigeria, and even lend a helping hand when necessary to overthrow any government that want to change the status quo.
The above illustrations are all encumbrances of the ‘International politics of foreign aid’. It is important for us to know that foreign aid affects Nigeria and other African states both positively and negatively. On the positive side, financial grants or loans help to speed up development where money is well utilized. The Department for International Development (DFID) a United Kingdom government department, in conjunction with United States Agency for International Development, and International Education Project, have supported the educational sector in Nigeria by providing a more complete picture of schooling at the local level, covering approximately 30,000 households with school-aged children spread across 36 states of the federation. Military aids have assisted in strengthning military cooperation between African states and the super powers. Take for instance, the military collaboration between Nigeria and china, allows china to train, and retrain our security personnel in the areas of tackling terrorism, production of military hardwares for the Navy, Army, Airforce and the police as well as aircraft spare parts and the opening of production centre in Nigeria.
Conversely, the negative effects of aid overshadow the positive effects. The following are examples of its negative effects (a) Foreign aid is used as a means of enfeebling Africa’s development, to make Africa more dependent on the western nations. (b) Foreign aid is used as a ploy to sway our foreign policy to suit the interest of the western world. (c) Foreign aid is an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster. Take as an example foreign aid has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency market and more unattractive to higher quality investment. It has also increased the risk of civil conflict and unrest (the fact that over 60% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is under the age of 24 with few economic prospects is a cause for worry).
In the face of this unpropitious effect of foreign aids, Should we (African’s) continue to get foreign aid or stop? Even though one has to be rigid to answer these questions, the answers must still be given. (a) African states should shun any foreign aid that mortgages their sovereignty and damages self-development. Though, this singular action may induce some immediate inconveniences but Africans can rejoice in the fact they are pushing towards self functionality. (b) Aid could be received by African states from the western nations if the aid is given under favorable terms as long as it speeds up self-development. (c) All aids received must be properly utilized to the benefit of African state not for the interest of foreigners and their African stooges.
Most of all, it is better for African states to accept multilateral loans and leave-off bilateral loans. More importantly, Africans should begin social mobilization for their own self- development without seeking external aids. To cap it all up, the wise words of an Indian patriot, Imran Khan, still rings true even today, “A country that relies on aids? Death is better than that. It stops you from achieving your potential, just as colonialism did.”
Anjorin Oludolapo Charles is a 300L student of Political Science from the University of Ibadan. You can also engage me on twitter via my twitter handle @dollypizo