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Submitted by Chelsea Rediger on
Mr. Fengler, I appreciated the approach your blog took in discussing the topic of aid, which recently has been controversial. Your post accurately addresses a gray area that is often presented as black or white, an act that typically does not do justice to a complex issue such as pouring aid into developing nations in Africa. Two things I question: your assessment that Africa is growing strongly and steadily, and what I felt to be your proposal that reaching the status of “middle income” was desirable [do not mistake me, I did notice and acknowledge your third point of suggestion for innovation and support to country systems to prevent the middle income trap]. Quantitatively, it is possible to see economic growth. I think it is key, however, to look to the disparity between rich and poor and the growing inequality rate. In South Africa, for example, as of 2011 almost half the population was living below the poverty line – that number in itself is an improvement from what it previously was, but can it be considered progress if half a nation is living on about $53 a month? While objectively poverty is on the decline, a more pertinent issue is the fact that inequality is rising as the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. I say this to suggest that just because a country has reached the status of MIC does not mean it is no longer in need of aid, nor is the status of MIC necessarily desirable with a GDP per capita income at a mere $1,000. Will the achievement of MIC status alleviate and/or eliminate poverty, uneducated children, HIV/AIDS, orphans, or political corruption from the societies of African nations? Zambian economist, Dambisa Moyo, points to the fact that in spite of aid, “Africa continues to have poor infrastructure, bad education and a lousy health care system.” You mentioned that MIC countries have enough internal resources to function without external aid. By this standard, are you asserting that the only reason said countries are not functioning as such are because they do not have the tools to effectively manage and distribute their resources? Which leads me to your second proposal. I was intrigued by your suggestion of “transferring knowledge rather than money” as a form of aid; intrigued because I agree but find myself asking the question, “How?” What does this look like on a practical and feasible scale? A huge hindrance for humanitarian intervention in the face of humanitarian crises throughout the past few decades, was the issue of sovereignty and the cyclical debate over when it is acceptable to infringe on the right to sovereignty of another nation. My question for you, then, is how does a developed and well endowed nation transfer its knowledge and skill-set in the form of aid to a developing or middle income African country in need of good governmental and economic policies?