Rethinking foreign aid to Africa
Over the past sixty years, African nations have received more than half a trillion dollars in aid. From the amount of aid, it is logical to assume that the African continent is now free from poverty. However, African nations continually find themselves relapsing back to the status quo by going back to the donors. So how should aid be given to promote sustainable development in Africa? The foreign aid program should foster the nations’ sustainable growth through creating a self-sufficient environment by reducing dependency.
I visited the village of Korr, Kenya working as a volunteer at a local hospital a year ago. There I realized that a new approach is necessary after witnessing the endless cycle that made African people heavily dependent on foreign aid. A group of fierce warriors appeared out of a long line of patients waiting for treatment. The warriors demanded money. They only left after a long time. The native pastor said that the reckless distribution of funds led many residents of Korr to be dependent. The people have to beg for more after receiving grants and spending it carelessly, instead of laboring to earn the money and investing it. This attenuates the motivation for self-sufficiency within the people.
To foster self-sufficiency, donors should “teach the people how to catch the fish.” A fine example of ensuring sustainable development can be found in the medical service group that I was involved in last year. The Severance Hospital of Yonsei University in Korea has continuously sponsored Kenyan hospitals and doctors. I found out that the hospital regularly invites Kenyan medical professionals to Korea to introduce them to the newest techniques and train them. In that way, the development of Kenyan medical expertise is ensured. Later on, hospitals in Kenya can look after their own patients instead of appealing to foreign hospitals. Some may argue that these measures take a very long time and thus are ineffective. However, these measures can prepare the ground for sustainable development and decrease the dependency of the African continent.
This is not a call for a cessation of foreign aid to Africa. Instead, there needs to be a re-examination of how aid funds should be distributed. The careless operation of the aid programme during the past 60 years has driven the African continent into an endless cycle of dependency. Instead of remedial aid, donors should invest in ways to create a self-sufficient environment in the long term. This change of approach can rescue Africa from the dark abyss of poverty and lead it to a sustainable economy, saving numerous lives.
*Chae Min-byung Student at the Seoul Foreign school