05 July 2005

AP sniplets: Good Intentions Often Go Bad in Africa

Africa is filled with good intentions that ended badly. Despite billions of dollars in aid, Africa has gone backward since the 1970s on every measurable level.

The countries who received the most aid during the Cold War now have the biggest problems, with Liberia, Sudan and what is now called Congo, topping the list. Aid is granted based on the relationship between a country's leader and the international donors, not on the ability of the nation to use the aid properly. Fortified with international support and aid, these leaders too often become more authoritarian because they control the nation's financial and natural resources.

Another criticism is that aid to Africa can benefit the donors as much as, if not more than, the recipients. When President Bush announced an additional $674 million in aid for Africa, $490 million was in the form of food. That money goes to U.S. farmers, who supply bags of grain to aid agencies for distribution.

Japan is also a major donor to Africa, but in fiscal year 2001, more than 60 percent of all grants required the purchase of Japanese products or services.

Chinese trade with Africa totals $30 billion a year, most of it in aid and investment by state-owned companies. The government makes no bones that the goal is not only to help the continent and shore up political alliances, but to help Chinese companies make a profit. As a result, China currently has a trade surplus with Africa.

Basically, you don't build societies by throwing money in. To make it worst, very little cash is actually spent on the continent, where it would boost local workers, producers and businesses.

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