Putting the Hyena in charge of the meat store!
History is riddled with unexplained events. International aid is a big business but there is a catch to these deals. There is a list of conditions to be met, among others privatisation of public goods.  But China in Africa, the conditions is relaxed, in preparation of war over resources.

In spite of large amount of aid for over 50 years through the state, and Bono’s/Geldorf’s successful efforts to cancel Africa’s enormous debt,  most African countries still find themselves in abject poverty and are getting poorer. Despite evidence showing aid has had no effect on poverty all these years, some voices still argue for more of it. This approach is like saying the patient is getting worse by this medicine and the solution is giving him more of the same medicine, or using an enhancer, rather than an inhibitor, in depleting a deadly bacterial growth. 

Aid through the state, rather, provides a lifetime protection for African politicians. It ends up being in the hands of influential politicians who use large part of the aid for their personal gain. The rest is also diluted in the bureaucratic system. The organisation of power in Africa is based on ethnical lines, and aid, in this context, tends to enable politicians to have their own vested interests. Part of the aid is selectively used to achieve political following, legitimacy, loyalty and individual compliance amongst the people. In a nutshell, their political, fiscal and social survival revolves around the use of aid (and foreign loans) as a tool to subsidize peoples’ misunderstanding of political systems, and create political cahoots of elites. African politicians survive on aid. And the aid is channelled through them, hence the analogy of the Hyena being in charge of the meat store.

Society’s development is achieved through the individual efforts of the members of that society who are armed with a futuristic cumulative objective. A good example is during the industrial revolution in Western Europe. However, the African mind is made to believe that a society’s advancement is not a product of spontaneous actions of individuals but rather a product of commended decisions by governments fronted through humanitarian (pecuniary) intervention by the international community through the state. 

Existential threat 
In times of economic recessions, where income tax is remarkably reduced due to lack of or rather loss of jobs, the elites of Africa are insured against the consequences of economic distress by aid. No immediate threat to the elite, thanks to the political stupidity of the developed world. Had they being threatened, they would have developed potential goals to alleviate the economic distress.

Since the elite are exclusively aid-dependant, and aid as one of their primary sources of income, they deliberately ignore the need for sustainable governments but instead buy peoples’ allegiance through hand-outs facilitated by international aid. Therefore, in retrospective, aid tends to subsidize failure rather than propping development. Therefore, aid increases the economic attractiveness of politics and profitability of controlling power. Hence the fight over power that constantly brews in Africa. In most African countries, tribes battle to have one of their own in power so as to “eat” well during his/her tenure.

But can aid, or the lack of it, be used to curb corruption and political prostitution, and confine politicians to genuine political conscience?
What if aid was cut? What if this flow of income was interrupted or better yet, what if the source of this money for their fiscal survival is to be generated by the domestic economy (through spontaneous actions of individuals in the market as in the West). Lack of aid would threaten the very existence of these political elite as this is tantamount to facing their extermination. They won’t be able to afford the bribes right before elections. The mass would probably realize how they’ve been neglected all these years, and their sorrowful fate.  The politicians, in this context, would be driven by self-interest (so as to survive in an aid-free society) to govern in a more enlightened version and listen to their citizens so as to avoid the wrath of their subjects, as a consequence of continual underdevelopment. They would develop vested interest on the productivity and development of their countries, from infrastructure to governmental accountability. I, therefore, believe, hand-outs in the form of humanitarian aid through the state enriches few and puts any potential political clout of the ordinary man in limbo! Thus, the mantra ‘cut aid; cripple the politician to political conciousness’.

In the same breath, is the huge loan Africa has had to grapple with. Africa pays almost the same amount in paying loans (that were mainly given to Africa during the cold war to gain allegience) as it recieves in aid. See BBC’s ‘Why poverty? Give us the money’ documentary that aired 25.11.12 to get a grasp of the impact of these loans on Africa’s development.

PS; Abrupt cut in aid, coupled with other political (local) motives, could lead to incorrigible chaos as happened in Somalia in the 80s. The country cut ties with its major donors. As a consequence, the government couldn’t sustain the economical need of its population as it heavily relied on aid. Lack of individual skills, education and training aggravated the situation. This, among others, necessitated protests against the ruling elite that culminated in civil war. The same happened in Liberia and Mobutu’s Zaire. A gradual and calculated reduction of aid is imperative though.

Abdiaziz Abdikadir is An indepent freelance of Coventry University. abdikada@uni.coventry.ac.uk.