THOMAS SANKARA, the late former leader of Burkina Faso, strongly opposed foreign aid to Africa and often said: “He who feeds you controls you.”
Without doubt, Sankara’s words remain true in narrating the plight of Africa which remains in chains of a ‘debt trap diplomacy’ introduced to her by countries from the North.
The global North-South relations continue to portray hypocrisy of the North as reflected in different types of aid offered to countries in the South.
It is depressing to know that Africa, despite fighting for the abolishment of slavery and colonialism, remains dependent on her former colonisers for aid.
Through colonial education and maladministration, African minds are so corrupted they continue looking up to their former colonial masters.
Important also to note is that the dependency syndrome is a creation of the West so that they continue exploiting Africa’s resources.
Today, the bulk of African countries occupy the bottom places in income per capita percent of the population living in extreme poverty due to the impact of foreign aid.
When discussing aid in Africa, it is also important for one to ask the following questions:
Is aid really helping reduce poverty in Africa?
Is it contributing to social and economic development and strengthening institutions?
Such questions make it critical for Africans to realise that an Oliver Twist’s attitude of extending the begging bowl will stall her development.
Statistics of different types of aid to Africa highlight an increase in the number of countries relying more on aid.
Sociologist Immanuel Wallenstein shares his perspectives on a world system theory that highlights the difference of countries from the core, semi–periphery and the periphery.
Through such theory, Wallenstein shows that Africa will continue to be exploited by countries from the core that need Africa’s resources to maintain a status quo of ‘big brother’ in the stages of development.
This exploitation is therefore initiated through aid which is pledged to Africa in the form of loans bearing high rates of interest, leaving many African governments with a crippling debt crisis that perpetuates underdevelopment of African economies.
Zimbabwe is an example of a country that had its development stalled as a result of debts from the Bretton Woods Institutions in the name of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.
The fast track Land Reform Programme of 2000 saw Zimbabwe being slapped with economic sanctions from the same countries that control the Bretton Woods Institutions.
Zimbabwe suffered a double blow of trying to balance the effects of sanctions to her economy and repaying debt.
Currently, Zimbabwe has cleared arrears to the IMF and is left with
US$1,8 billion debt to the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
However, on the latest developments, IMF has shown interest in assisting Zimbabwe clear its arrears by drafting a debt clearance strategy anchored on fundamental economic reforms.
A recent statement by the IMF reads: “The IMF stands ready to help (Zimbabwe) design a reform programme that can help facilitate clearance of external arrears to international development banks and bilateral official creditors… that would open the way for fresh financing from international community.
Supporting reforms will require a comprehensive stabilisation and structural programme from the (Zimbabwe) authorities and financial support from the international community to provide space for these reforms.
We see that the new administration of President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa has
expressed commitment to strong economic reforms.”
In 2015, Zimbabwe adopted the Lima Plan to clear debt arrears.
In his quest to revive the country’s economy, President Mnangagwa’s Government continues with the Lima Plan as part of a broader strategy to attract fresh lines of credit.
No doubt, the issue of aid to Africa has seen many African countries paying more in debt servicing than what is received as aid from Western countries and blocs.
Writer Walter Rodney in his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa cautioned Africa on the effects of foreign aid which he describes as meant to underdevelop Africa.
Through aid, countries from the West have reflected their need to continue with their agenda initiated during slavery so that Africans have their manpower and resources exploited.
It is sad, rather pathetic, that after decades of attaining independence, many African countries are still on the ‘leash’ — controlled by their former colonial masters.
Up until now, France still keeps the financial reserves of 14 African countries that include Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Apart from their reserves being kept in France, six of the 14 African countries are forced by France to pay colonial tax.
It is against this background that Kenyan Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba is on record saying: “Africa is on a dinner table eaten by superpowers.”
Today, African countries, such as South Sudan, are left with no option but to beg for aid due to recurrence of conflict that is secretly supported by countries from the North so that they loot her resources, especially oil.
No one can dispute that for more than 20 years, the eastern part of the DRC is still in shambles due to a recurrence of conflict that is fuelled by the West so that they get hold of her rich mineral resources.
A research by Council on Foreign Relation in 2016 showed that DRC had an estimated US$24 trillion of untapped minerals and has the world’s largest reserves of cobalt, enormous quantities of diamonds, gold and copper, among others.
More aid is thus directed to such countries so that they manipulate the mind of the African men who then fight their own kith and kin knowing that at the end of the day, food and health is taken care of through aid.
As millions of dollars are being used for aid, it is important to point out that aid does not come on a silver platter.
It always comes with strings attached.
For Africa, receiving aid is not only a gesture of being offered assistance.
There are conditions that are attached to it as pre-requisites for becoming a beneficiary of aid.
But conditions have always reflected the hypocrisy of developed nations.
On the other hand, conditions show how donors turn aid to their favour, telling African governments that if they are given money, they must make changes in their governance.
As a result of aid, Western governments and institutions involve themselves in setting policy agendas for the majority of countries in Africa.
Over the past 25 years, aid, trade agreements and other forms of diplomatic pressure have been used as the tool of choice by the West to control Africa.
A good example is the US’ African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which clearly shows the hypocrisy of the US.
The Act sets conditions to be eligible for trade agreements between US and Africa.
Zimbabwe and countries such as Sudan and South Sudan are not part of AGOA because they could not meet the eligibility requirements.
Some of the requirements maintain that a country establish, or is making continual progress toward establishing the ‘rule of law’, ‘political pluralism’, the ‘right to due process’, ‘fair trial’ and ‘equal protection under the law.’
Another requirement is that US caters for a country that does not engage in activities that undermine US national security or foreign policy interests and does not engage in gross violations of internationally recognised human rights or provide support for acts of international terrorism .
Interesting is that some countries in Africa are part of AGOA, not as a result of their loyalty to the conditions of the US but due to their natural resources that are needed by the US.
While some aid is conditionally used to protect and promote human rights, the majority of conditions are elaborated to entrench further dependence on donor countries, creating, for example, trade preferences and ‘sole contractor’ agreements.
According to an article in The Guardian of 2012, Malawi had to review its laws banning homosexuality after the US had announced that it would use foreign aid to pressure countries to decriminalise homosexual acts.
When he was still in office, former president of the US Barack Obama was on the forefront of coercing African countries to adhere to his plea of embracing gay rights.
He once told US officials to consider how countries treat their gay and lesbian populations when making decisions about allocating foreign aid.
Obama also became popular in the US for condemning a bill proposed in Uganda which would make some homosexual acts a crime punishable by death.
Said President Obama back then: “I am deeply concerned by the violence and discrimination targeting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) persons around the world, whether it is passing laws that criminalise LGBT status, beating citizens simply for joining peaceful LGBT pride celebrations, or killing men, women and children for their perceived sexual orientation.”
The West’s interest in controlling Africa and its resources has resulted in countries agreeing to conditions only because they have to and those that depend less on aid find it easier to refuse.
These conditions have touched the very heart of policymaking in Africa; from stipulating how to deliver base services such as health and education to deciding economic policies governing trade and the supply of money to African economies.
Aid donors have also used the power of their money to force African countries to follow IMF approved public spending regimes which are far stricter than is necessary.
African governments, because of their begging for aid, are thus prevented from spending their revenues as they choose and have to wait for IMF approval to go ahead and spend.
Baffling is the IMF’s official justification for its interference in sovereign government policy – that it has a duty to its shareholders to ensure borrowers make tough decisions needed get their economy in a good shape so that they meet repayments on IMF loans.
To break this manipulation, embarrassment and controlling from the West, African countries must ensure they come up with African solutions to African problems.
Corruption is one of the top hindrance to the economic development of Africa and African governments should come up with lasting solutions to fight it so that they break the chains of being servants of debt and aid from the West.
Europe must not be left to continue milking Africa!