Tigers of the Far East such as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore received massive help from the rich Western countries. But within 10 years they were fending for themselves. Most African countries have been receiving all forms of development aid for nearly 50 years yet are still in great need of it.
Jonathan Glennies book: â€˜The trouble with aidâ€™ reveals startling information. Even those African countries which are considered well endowed with natural resources experience the hardships generally associated with poorer countries such as Malawi. We learn that up to three quarters of Zambiaâ€™s doctors leave the country while Malawi has only 266 doctors for a population of 13 million. Countries such as Burkina Faso, Madagascar and Malawi, for example, will see Official Development Assistance (ODA) grow from less than 50 percent of the budget to more than 65 percent.
Uganda, which currently receives an equivalent of 64 percent of its government expenditure, would see that level rise to 79 percent while Tanzania would see the ratio increase from 77 percent to 87 percent.
These statistics may be disputed, but what cannot be disputed is that most African countries have not made effective use of the massive aid they have been receiving for nearly half a century.
It has been said that most people who boast of having 10 years experience actually mean one yearâ€™s experience repeated 10 times over. When you assess what achievements they have made with that experience, you see next to nothing. African governments have not achieved much with the various forms of aid they receive because they have made no distinct changes to the methods they adopt in handling that aid. By doing things the same way again and again, they experience the same results. If the results are minuscule, economics stagnate or grow at a snailâ€™s speed.
The first sine qua non for accelerated African economic development is reform and reorientation in everything that has to do with development. The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness has five principles;
African and other developing countries should take the lead in deciding their own policies. This will acquire original thinking and full understanding of their countriesâ€™ situation as well as the situation of development partners.
Donors should support national development strategies, institutions and procedures. To do this, African countries will have to use diplomacy since in most forms of partnerships, they are junior partners. The donors have the financial clout while most African countries do not have anything to counteract. Malawiâ€™s recent experience with donors is a stark reminder of this.
Harmonisation Donors should reduce transaction costs in the aid they give. A good deal of what is called aid consists of expenses incurred in the donorsâ€™own country. The impact of such transaction in the recipient countries is much less.
Managing for results.
Any activity that does not show results is a waste of time and resources. Records should be kept of how much aid has been given at one point in time. Its results should be assessed at another time. How many times have we heard of grants and loans received by the Minister of Finance on behalf of government? We hear no more about that. Is it too much to ask for a report to be read in Parliament about how the grant or the loan has been used.
Mutual accountability Donors are quite entitled to demand performance reports from recipients of their money. Without this condition, abuses of the aid received are possible. Donors should also account for the commitments they make.
In order that African policies should bear fruit, three things should be done;
(a) Organisation for results.
(b) Cultural orientation for modernisation.
(c) Correct positioning with donors and the rest of the external world.
To organise for economic results, the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development should be headed by someone with a status higher than that of a Minister. He could be a vice-president. He also must be someone who has a passion for the job. The ministry should coordinate and supervise other economic ministries and should be staffed by high calibre technocrats, not persons judged good because of their politics. They should be given security of tenure not subject to removal as a result of changes of politics or ruling parties.
The culture of the people should be development friendly. People should work for the best results that can only be achieved in the long run. In the short run, the people should be inculcated with the spirit of duty at all cost rather than my rights at the highest price. They should be patient for results rather than rewards.
The wealth of a country comes from what it makes and produces and then sells to the people, especially foreigners. Cultivating friendly relationships with those who have the wherewithal for development pays dividends.