Can a Massive Foreign Aid Be the Solution to Africa’s Problems, Part 3

By Dr. Aklog Birara, former Senior Advisor at the World Bank

The Far Reach of Neo-colonialismThe invisible new Cold War is imbedded in development policies, plans and implementation. African scholars and opinion makers spend a great deal of time and energy debating, comparing, contrasting, and critiquing the Asia and Pacific development model led by China and the Western model led by the USA. The debate is healthy. But what ultimately matters are the value-added policies, programs, investment portfolios and infrastructure. A disconnected Africa cannot develop fast.

The key driver of African’s foreign, economic, financial, and development relations must be African’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual interest, mutual benefits, mutual trust, and mutual respect. If “good Samaritans” do not respect your sovereign rights and national interests, there is no reason to expect a better outcome from their generosity. Aid serves the national interest first. Foreign aid can help or harm. “Give a person fish; you feed him for a day. Teach a person how to fish; you feed him for a lifetime.” Aid that enhances capabilities helps. Aid that makes you dependent harms.

The West’s dominant power, the USA, leverages its powerful financial, technological, scientific, military, geopolitical, and diplomatic prowess in the whole of  Africa by ensuring that the legacy of colonialism and the precept of the “civilizing” west endures, albeit in a newly minted, nuanced, and disguised manner.

 I subscribe to the core values. My frustration and dismay are with the misapplication of democratic governance and purported commitment to human rights, especially the doctrine of “responsibility to protect” that Samantha Power, current Head of USAID, is said to have crafted. The U.S. consistently deploys these doctrines, leading the West to justify punitive measures against Ethiopia and other African countries like Zimbabwe in the same manner as is done against Russia. Experts argue that Russia is not fighting Ukraine alone but the entire NATO community. Ethiopia faces the same or similar external actors that operate in tandem with internal insurgents. Ethiopia is not fighting the TPLF. It is fighting a cohort of external and internal actors together.

Aid is a tool for exploitation and not an enabler of development in Africa. It is incontestable that the USA international Development (USAID) was established to serve the geopolitical and strategic interests of the USA. Since its 1961 inception, USAID has served as a U.S. intelligence Trojan Horse, aiding the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other agencies in undermining enemy governments. The assassination of the democratically elected Patrice Lumumba in 1960 was an example of the then prevailing USA foreign policy guided by the Domino Theory.

Trade is by far the best option in sustainable development for Africa. Asia and the Pacific are changing through investment and trade, but Africa is stuck. There is less conflict in East Asia and the Pacific because countries are wealthier than ever before. The USA and the rest of the West treat these countries respectfully and as equals. Africa deserves to be treated as equal, too.

Ex-colonial powers and the USA dictate and impose policies and programs on Africans. They lecture Africans like school children and then they react to Western agendas. The AU changed its charter to be better and assert Africa’s standing in the global arena. But its role in mitigating conflicts between and among AU member nations is extremely timid and weak. It must have a permanent representation in the UN Security Council.

The African Union modernized its charter in response to a changing global world–unprecedented change in economic, financial, trade, and development from the West to the East. The emergence of a dynamic and demanding African citizenry with a bulging youth population reinforces the imperative of change in the mindset and geopolitical strategy of African states.

The UN governance model and structure must be reformed in response to a fast-changing Africa and world economy. The conventional wisdom that the source of creativity, productivity, science, technology, and the rest reside only in the west is no longer true. This shift is healthy. It must be managed wisely for the benefit of humanity.

Africa’s future depends on its youth. African youth demand good, corruption-free, and accountable governance. African youth do not want to be treated as second-class citizens by ex-colonial powers, the USA, or their local African collaborators. The Constitutive Act of the AU, signed by 53 member states on July 11, 2000, that governs the AU member states is, in theory, “guided by our common vision of a united and strong Africa and by the need to build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society, in particular women, youth and the private sector, to strengthen solidarity and cohesion among our peoples.”

The First Africanism ConferenceThis aspirational goal for which Kwame Nkrumah, Emperor Haile Selassie, and others fought, remains largely a pie in the sky. With a population of more than 1.3 billion, Africa remains corruption-ridden and badly governed. It is not well represented in the UN system. African nations cannot form real unity because, among other hurdles, some member nations stab one another in the back. They do this in collusion with external powers. Of course, a divided Africa is easy to perpetually keep disorganized and exploitable.

Africa and Europe have different norms. The EU and the USA feature prominent in this tug of war. The West wishes to maintain the status quo of a fragmented, conflict and corruption-ridden Africa. For example, the USA failed to demand that Sudan withdraw its military forces from Ethiopia and stop conducting proxy wars against Ethiopia on behalf of Egypt. The singular goal is to derail the successful completion of the GERD by helping Egypt, both of whom prefer to continue implementing the 1929 colonial agreement on the use water of the Nile River. The British Empire which designed the agreement was concerned with cotton production in Egypt and Sudan for its textile industries in Manchester than the rest of the riparian countries including Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Central African Republic, and the DRC.

The United States is Ethiopia’s largest bilateral aid giver. At the same time, it provides indirect or tacit support to the TPLF, thereby negating its own designation as a terrorist organization, and Articles regarding AU member state relationship. Article III(b) declares that the AU shall “defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of its Member States.” Article III (f) binds members to “promote peace, security, and stability on the continent.”

Article 4 is on the guiding principles. It identifies the following core guidelines that bind states to 4(e) “Peaceful resolution of conflicts among the member states of the union”, and 4(f) “Prohibition of the use of force or threat to use force among member states of the union” as well as Article 4(g) “Non-interference by any member state in the internal affairs of another.”

Africa will strengthen itself if the AU implements the principles and guidelines articulated in Article 4. African states must support one another; and move towards continental economic, financial, and monetary integration. The benefits will outweigh such massive Western aid proposed by Jonathan Power and others.