Smarter aid, the key to efficient development in Africa

Following the growing debt of many African countries, the cry to refrain from accepting aid, borrowing and incurring more debt has grown louder. However, Tina Musoke, the strategic advisor of MasterCard foundation has a counter-narrative to foreign aid. Musoke who made this known during the ongoing Global Africa Forum on Communication (GAFCOMM) said that “Aid is very important but what Africa needs is smart aid.”

As of March 26, 2019, Africa’s Eurobond debt passed the $100-billion milestone following Ghana’s issuance of a $2.7 billion Eurobond. In 2018, African countries issued $27.1 billion in 2018. Currently, the collective African debt has surpassed $8 billion and the money is projected to reach $17.6 billion by the end of 2019.

While some experts believe that external debt is not necessarily harmful to an economy if these external debt inflows are synchronized with business cycles, South Africa’s Thebe Ikalafeng, the Founder of Brand Leadership Group, Thebe thinks otherwise. In his words, aid is not working for us. It is crippling us as a continent. “Africa is aiding the world with our own sweat and tears. They bring in $132 billion and take $192 billion.” Through aid, others “are eating from our plate while we grow hungry and they look at us and say that we are hungry and poor.”

However, before Africa successfully stops others from eating from their plate and taking large chunks of the African pie, the continent needs to be deliberate in the kind of aid it accepts and African countries need to be wary of pulverising terms and conditions that come with the aid.

According to the Deputy Director of Communications of Africa, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, Moky Makura stated, “African governments need to decide what is important to them, they need to prioritize investing in education and healthcare of the people.”

Africa has the highest rates of educational exclusion in the world. For years, basic school education on the continent has remained static, poorly invested in, and inadequate for present and future needs. Worse, about 60 percent of children in sub-Saharan Africa between the ages of 15 and 17 are not in school. Yet the continent receives aid for various purposes yearly.

Quite alright, infrastructure is critical for sustainable development in Africa and borrowing for infrastructural development seems feasible given that it would improve the welfare of the people and support economic growth.  But for how long?

Currently, the keenest borrowers in Africa are feckless spenders but if Africans are not well educated and the health of its people are not consciously catered for, the continent would still lag behind. Since African governments are keen on receiving aid, maybe, its high time they did it intelligently.