Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Donating and Dependency

“International development is complex: it overflows with good intentions but often fails to produce positive results. In Uganda, foreign grants account for 33 percent of the 2003–2004 government budget. However, when I arrived in Uganda in June 2003, the headlines of The NewVision, Uganda’s largest daily newspaper, read: “Aid Has Failed to Develop Africa.”1 Weekly editorials and opinion letters criticized the spending of foreign aid dollars. Fr. Michael Corcoran of the Mill Hill Missionaries in East Africa advocated self-reliance, saying “you Africans must be the primary experts of your development because you know your values and aspirations.”2 Gordon Opiyo, a writer for Kenya’s Standard, expressed concern over aid dependency in his 13 July article entitled “Has the Government Thought of the Pitfalls of Aid?” Most Ugandans agree that foreign aid is necessary, but they worry about continued dependence and the debt their children will have to pay.”

The True Agents of Change in Africa
Eric Pohlman, Georgetown University

This article reflects my own thoughts on the complex relationship between international aid and dependency. It is difficult to see so many needs in Africa and around the world and to know how to address them in ways that will be sustainable and helpful in the long-run. If I were confronted with people who were hungry, I would reach for the clearest and most immediate solution: give them food. Food aid is necessary in some situations, but it often reinforces the idea that these individuals cannot solve their problems without outside help. I’m learning that any emergency aid must be coupled with long term training to help the beneficiaries learn how to meet their own needs.

That’s what I love about working for ASAP. All of ASAP’s projects are focused on empowering people to improve their own lives. Communities come together to identify and prioritize their needs and brainstorm ways to address them. Then, ASAP helps with support and training. In this way, the participants take ownership of the projects and learn valuable skills that they can use long after the project has ended. A perfect example of this approach is the Kufusa Mari project. You can read more about it here.

Foreign aid is necessary for developing countries like Zimbabwe. Still, governments, international aid organizations, and private donors must be careful to ensure their efforts are empowering the beneficiaries and not forcing them into greater dependence. Comment to share your thoughts!


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