The issue of aid particularly from nations in the west is a controversial one, which has become even more debated in recent years. There are Two parts to this issue: direct investment by governments and the involvement of Western NGOs. It is the former that is the most controversial in that it involves direct intervention by one government on another, which is perhaps why we have seen a shift away from direct monetary support towards financial assistance through the neoliberal market: it is the increase in trade and inclusion of the continent in the export-import trade that now characterizes the main aspects of the western aid relationship.
There has always been some level of dependency on the West in Africa, whether it was during decolonization, cold war assistance or in the form of structural adjustment programs; remnants of colonial support has clearly stretched throughout the continents history. It is this history which evidently provides the reasoning behind why we see a continuation of such policies, ones that now appears to have taken the form of aid with a twist; ie aid not in the traditional sense.
Foreign aid can be defined as any action by a government or citizens of one country which helps to promote economic development in another country. It is using this definition which outlines the processes we see today particularly with regards to the forms of aid that comes from the west.
The marshall plan is considered to be a major force behind the evolution of foreign aid towards its present form. Since then processes of assessing aid have been introduced by the world bank in 1998. These practices mainly consist of providing food, cash or reducing the levels of debt in countries involved in this exchange. Despite these initiatives being successfully applied to countries such as Uganda there is still a high dependency on aid, suggesting that these policies have not been successful in achieving their original purpose. When focusing specifically on Uganda what becomes evident is that the western form of aid has not always worked. Thus, while it cannot be denied that in many cases the aid that countries on the continent received to help economic development were successful, it has to be noted that such aid has created high levels of resentment within the continent particularly amongst those who feel that aid is simply a new form of colonialism. It is the notion of aid and therefore dependency that has sparked such feelings owing to the ideas of control and subordination attached to foreign aid. This is particularly made evident by Deaton an expert on global poverty who argues against aid owing to his statement that aid “typically serves commercial interests at home or buys political allies abroad”. It is his opposition against monetary aid which draws my attention to the negative effects of aid
As a region Africa accounts for around 20% of US aid; with Egypt, Kenya and South Sudan being the biggest beneficiaries. Thus, Trumps reduction in foreign aid which already only accounted for 1% in the spending budget will severely affect development projects owing to heavy reliance on such funding within the state. However what recent studies have shown that although on the surface reduction in aid creates negative issues, evidence suggests growth will increase as the percentage of aid decreases. This because state are able to become more independent.
But is the disinterest which provided the root cause for this shift good or bad?
When looking at Trump’s policy he continues to pursue a policies that he believed would have the greatest benefits for the American people. Wherein he can be seen to remove the US as a major within the international aid system. But I argue that this has had positive impacts on the African People owing to greater independence. Because of this It is therefore in the interests of African states to move away from aid and towards trade in order to provide a more responsive economic environment domestically that will both attract further foreign investment and encourage the growth of competition. It is these movements that create the positive levels of growth in Uganda that we see today because there is an emphasis on competitive development to meet the demands of the global market,
Following the increasing investment from China, US aid switched to prioritize health and education, rather than the economic forms that are discussed above. It is this form of aid that will help the continent more particularly when focusing of food and economics. Evidently, Western aid has not only been centered around money but also food; the benefits of food aid to Uganda and other states on the continent Africa is connected to providing resources free of charge which therefore offers the potential for achieving stabilization in food supply and price as supply and demand are not increasing. Such forms of aid are essential to provide food stability.
What has also has to be shown is that it is not only western governments that have taken up this mantel. Since the 1970s there has been increasing emphasis on NGOs involvement within the continent particularly following natural disasters or in conflict situations. It is this notion of humanitarianism that has set the bar for aid that has come from governments owing to the increasing understanding that aid should be human in nature. It is the human aspect, which has perhaps been the cause of the shift away from direct financial funding towards trade in order to allow for the realization of self-determination. Arguably it is the emphasis on humanitarianism which has meant that we see more aid in the form of food and resources over monetary assistance particularly in places where we see high levels of neopatrimonialism.
Perhaps this shift has come about through the rivalry that has grown between the US and China on the continent. Thus, if this rivalry is set to continue what we are likely to see in this continuation is a diversification of aid between the two countries, both of which will work towards increasing the states access to food. This is because both states seek to provide different forms of aid in the continent in order to win the hearts of the state, but it is yet to be determined whether it will be food aid or trade that will aid the continent more. To take a educated guess in the backdrop of globalization, it is the supported movement into the global market that will produce the most promising results. In sum, through removing levels of monetary aid in the form we can make Africa great.