Category Archives: Ajuda Externa

BBC News – Viewpoint: Binyavanga on why Africa’s international image is unfair

BBC News – Viewpoint: Binyavanga on why Africa’s international image is unfair.

Viewpoint: Binyavanga on why Africa’s international image is unfair

Madonna in MalawiShould Madonna be Africa’s president?

Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan author and a past winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, argues that the world has got its image of Africa very badly wrong.

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Africa’s image in the West, and Africa’s image to itself, are often crude, childish drawings of reality”

Let us imagine that Africa was really like it is shown in the international media.

Africa would be a country. Its largest province would be Somalia.

Bono, Angelina Jolie and Madonna would be joint presidents, appointed by the United Nations.

European aid workers would run the Foreign Affairs Office, gap year students from the UK the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Culture would be run by the makers of the Kony2012 videos.

‘Wholesome and ethnic’

Actual Africans would live inside villages designed by economist Jeffrey Sachs.

A view from Venezuela: “Africa has been oppressed and abused”

Those villagers would wear wholesome hand-made ethnic clothing, dance to wholesome ethnic music and during the day they would grow food communally and engage in things called income-generating activities.

For our own protection, American peacekeepers and Nato planes would surround the villages – making hearts and minds happy and safe.

We would give birth to only one baby per couple – this way we would not overwhelm poor, suffering Europeans with our desire to travel outside our villages and participate fully in a dynamic world.

We would not be allowed to do business with the Chinese and we would not be allowed to do business with the country formerly known as Gaddafi’s Libya.

Africa would discover the child in itself, and stop trying to mess around and be a part of the rest of the world.

Getting back to here, and now.

Any sensible person would say that to cede power to others to decide what you are has never been a good idea.

That is one of the reasons why Al-Jazeera exists.

Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru posing with artwork resembling sunglasses on February 1, 2012 in NairobiAfrica has numerous different images of itself to offer the world

Already, after 20 years of economic growth, as our countries – which are all very young – start to evolve and grow rapidly what starts to happen is that we start to look less cartoonish to ourselves and to others – as we export our entrepreneurs, our writers, our skilled people within the continent and to the rest of the world; as we continue to invest aggressively in digital technology; as we begin a new agricultural revolution; as our countries start to make larger political and economic unions.

Africa’s image in the West, and Africa’s image to itself, are often crude, childish drawings of reality.

These pictures and words are crude because crude things come out of little investment: Of money, of time, of attention, of imagination.

The picture becomes clearer, the more progress arrives. The more politics becomes lucid and accountable, the more roads, cables and railways are built.

Africa ‘not Switzerland’

That process has been accelerating for a while now.

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Everywhere I go, I see young people: confident, forward looking”

The human ability to learn, grow, and innovate is our most valuable tool.

Africa will never look like Switzerland.

One of the problems with the way it is written about is that it is measured in the present tense by how different it looks from the places that have developed a sophisticated and deeply documented sense of themselves.

Those nations and regions that got in earlier found themselves better able to project their own image to the rest.

There are parts of Africa that are not yet even committed to being in a nation-state as drawn in 1885 at the Berlin Conference, and in the 1960s by the great powers.

A view from Islamabad: “I think Africa is doing very well. Africa rocks!”

There are nation states that will survive those – and new nation states will emerge, new arrangements of people, new ways to manage resources, to use what is there.

There is work to be done. That is no question. Work for the brave, those full of imagination and desire.

There are a billion of us – of every human persuasion you can imagine.

Eight years ago, in my country Kenya, we had stopped imagining we could make anything work. Now Kenya is overwhelmed by new ideas, businesses, frictions, paint work, books, movies, magazines, and industries.

Everywhere I go, I see young people: Confident, forward looking. I have seen them in Lagos, in Rwanda, in the suburbs of London.

There is fresh concrete all over the continent. There are great challenges, but there is aggressive movement – and movement causes conflict.

The Africa Debate

Tune in to the BBC World Service at 1900 GMT on Friday to listen to The Africa Debate broadcast from Kampala: Is Africa’s image unfair?

Or take part in Twitter – using #bbcafricadebate – Facebook or Google+

What is much, much worse is stagnation. Places where people just sit and wait for fate. The post-IMF 1990s were like that – but that was more a moment than a permanent reality.

Things are changing fast.

The truth is, we have only started to see what we will look like.

The truth is, with the rise of China, we do not have to take any deal Europe throws at us that comes packaged with permanent poverty, incompetent volunteers and the occasional Nato bomb.

As the West flounders, there is a real sense that we have some leverage.

The truth is, we will never look like what CNN wants us to look like.

But that’s fine – we can get online now and completely bypass their nonsense.

Binyavanga Wainaina is the author of One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir and founding editor of the literary magazine Kwani?

via BBC News – Viewpoint: Binyavanga on why Africa’s international image is unfair.


Development Controversy a Sign of Sophistication | Stanford Social Innovation Review

Development Controversy a Sign of Sophistication

Public debate about two prominent poverty-alleviation programs shows that over the past 15 years international development has become much more scientific.

By Dean Karlan & Caroline Fiennes | Aug. 7, 2012

The international development world is currently hosting rows about whether two poverty-alleviation programs actually work.

The Millennium Villages Project, founded by economist Jeffrey Sachs and supported by Angelina Jolie and others, aims to help nearly 500,000 out of extreme poverty. A paper published in June in The Lancet, a leading health journal, was scrutinized and roundly criticized for the logic and analysis it used to argue that observed changes were due to the Millennium Villages rather than changes already taking place in society.

The second row concerns treating children in less developed countries for intestinal worms, which are endemic in many countries. Because the worms share a child’s food, they are thought to contribute to malnutrition, reduced physical and cognitive development, and lethargy. Deworming children has been found by randomized control trials to reduced absenteeism from school, and hence is recommended by the World Health Organization and the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank that publicizes the best uses of development money. But a systematic review and meta-analysis published last month by the respected Cochrane Collaboration, focusing on non-educational outcomes, found that “deworming children seems like a good idea, but the evidence for it just doesn’t stack up.”

The striking shift here is not in the details or merits of the specific programs, but in that these rows happen at all. They are precisely how science is supposed to work. For instance, Maxwell published his theory of electromagnetism, which turns out to be inconsistent with the maths of radiation from a black box, and from that tension arose the much broader quantum theory. Andrew Wiles published his “proof” of Fermat’s last theorem in 1993, somebody spotted an error, and Wiles revised and strengthened the proof as a result. In Einstein’s math for his general theory of relativity, the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann found a term being divided by zero (“a complicated form of zero,” a physicist once said), which suggested—contrary to the prevailing view—that the universe is expanding, subsequently confirmed by observation and from which cosmologists have estimated the universe’s age.

International development has become much more scientific in the last 15 years: evaluating ideas through randomized control trials; publishing enough detail about a program’s methods and results that it can be replicated elsewhere; subjecting analysis to peer review; and publishing in respected journals. The organizations whose data are being contested should be proud that their data are capable of such contest. They contrast starkly with much activity in charities, philanthropy, and even social policy where performance data are often too scarce, too private, too vague, and/or otherwise too flaky to be meaningfully debated.

Science—knowledge—progresses through vigorous public debate about rigorous data. This process has shown that many things that everyone “just knew” to be true are actually false—from the “fact” that the Sun goes round the Earth, to the “fact” that severe brain injuries should be treated with steroids, a common practice until 2005 when randomized control trials showed it to be fatal. Similarly, many things which we “just know” to be true about international development are being shown by this careful, empirical, scientific approach to be false: providing more text books to Indian schools rarely actually improves learning; microcredit does not singlehandedly lift millions out of poverty; anti-malarial bednets should not be sold but rather given away for free; cooking stoves that use less wood as fuel do not always reduce respiratory diseases from reduced smoke inhalation.

The current rows are therefore a sign that international development is moving beyond “just knowing because I saw it with my own eyes” into properly understanding what works. We need more and better data to enable more quality debates on many subjects about development—debates that get settled, not by personalities or popularity or politics, but by the evidence.

Caroline Fiennes is director of Giving Evidence and author of It Ain’t What You Give, It’s The Way That You Give It.

Dean Karlan is professor of economics at Yale University, co-author of More Than Good Intentions, and president and founder of Innovations for Poverty Action. (Disclosure: Innovations for Poverty Action actively supports the scale-up of school-based deworming efforts in developing countries.)

via Development Controversy a Sign of Sophistication | Stanford Social Innovation Review.

via Development Controversy a Sign of Sophistication | Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Innovation with Impact: Financing 21st Century Development

In a report presented to world leaders at the G20 summit in Cannes, France, Bill outlined recommendations to encourage innovation and new partnerships that increase the value and delivery of development aid. Read the report and download a copy.

via Innovation with Impact: Financing 21st Century Development.



A Ajuda ao Desenvolvimento chinesa tem sido alvo de críticas (e especulações) ao longo das últimas décadas, no que diz respeito ao nível de informação que disponibiliza sobre os fluxos de Ajuda canalizados para os Países em Desenvolvimento. A Publish … Continue reading

Negative perceptions slow Africa’s development

Africa is too often viewed as one country, rather than a continent. But the internet is helping to challenge post-colonial representations

MDG : postcolonial Africa : Maasai people gather under a baobab tree during a political rally, Kenya Is the internet Africa’s new palaver tree? Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

For generations, the palaver tree was a symbol of communication and collaboration throughout Africa: people would gather under its protective shade to listen to stories, share ideas and news and resolve community problems and conflicts.

Though the tradition of sharing remains deeply rooted in African culture, it has been undermined by the economic and political upheavals of recent decades, depriving many Africans of their sense of belonging. The void left in its place has been filled by a negative narrative coming from outside, what novelist Chimamanda Adichie calls “the single story”. This has created a distorted, one-dimensional view – eagerly embraced by the west, but also by many Africans themselves – that sees the continent only through a prism of war, disease, poverty, starvation and corruption.

Adichie, in her excellent TED conference talk in 2009, questioned how these negative perceptions have impacted African development. She’s not alone. Other African authors, such as Chinua Achebe, Amadou Hampâté Ba and Ousmane Sembene, have written remarkable books that challenge post-colonial narratives.

The single story has helped to generate millions of dollars in “aid” and an industry dedicated to spending it. It has enriched corrupt African dignitaries and raised the profile of western celebrities like Bono and Sir Bob Geldof . It has fuelled conflict and ultimately undermined African leadership. It has not helped Africa move forward. It has not protected the vulnerable, cured the sick, educated the illiterate or ended conflict. The failure to represent Africa fairly has reinforced western prejudices and deflected international development efforts from what should have been their core objectives. Africans have become passive recipients of often counterproductive aid instead of active participants in positive change.

Most African countries have now celebrated 50 years of independence, but the negative message is still circulating. Sadly, members of the African diaspora, cut off from the reality of life in their countries of origin and searching for a new identity in the west, are sometimes complicit in this deception, telling stories that merely serve to perpetuate the negative stereotypes that are harming Africans. I realised this at a recent workshop I was running in Washington, where I watched an articulate American-Nigerian, with one foot in the US and the other in Africa. So the problem is not only the western messengers who feed us with inaccurate stories. Too often, we generalise, talking of Africa as if it is one country. Nobody is pretending that Africa’s many serious problems should be played down or ignored, but the rest of the world, and Africans themselves, need to hear the good news stories as well. Africans in particular need to take ownership of the positive narrative to become ambassadors for positive change.

But change is coming. Africans are becoming increasingly critical of conventional news sources. They want to see a narrative that does them justice. For the first time, western news outlets are being challenged by bloggers and highly qualified in-house writers from Africa who are not on the payroll of well-known media like CNN or the BBC. We are seeing a new generation of accidental writers emerging. Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere are central to these developments. Indeed Twitter – where Dambisa Moyo, author of the controversial book Dead Aid, has 20,000 followers – is in some senses the new palaver tree, a place where Africans can communicate and share ideas.

From outside and inside Africa, we are also seeing a shift in the tone of the language coming from the international development community and global corporations, at last engaging with Africans to repair the damage created by decades of the “single story”.

Looking to 2011 and beyond, the prospects look bright. There’s a huge opportunity for the media and the international development community to reinvent their communication strategies for the continent. There is no single story of Africa or any African country. Although serious problems remain that need to be tackled head-on and reported accurately, Africa also needs to be given credit for the exciting advances being made in terms of progressive leadership, social entrepreneurship, innovation and technology, health and the arts. These positive narratives need to be heard loud and clear both inside and outside the continent.

* Mariéme Jamme is co-founder of Africa Gathering. Africa Gathering Nairobi begins today, exploring the topic of innovating in I


Foreign Aid for Scoundrels

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, center, with his wife Chantal Biya at a Bastille Day parade on the Champs Elysées, Paris, July 14, 2010

I was in a New York bar recently with a group of African intellectuals. To my surprise, I was sitting next to a democratic opposition leader whom I have long admired. He had been elected to a major office in his home country, but then the country’s leader sentenced him to life in prison. He eventually got out and left Africa, but he is still so fearful of the security forces of the autocrat that he asked me not to use his name or even his country’s name.

This opposition leader said one thing that will always stay with me. While he was in jail, he read The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs.1 He found these words in the acknowledgments:

My work in Africa has been blessed by help and guidance from a large number of colleagues and African leaders…. In particular I would like to thank Africa’s new generation of democratic leaders who are pointing the way, including….

One of those Sachs included was the opposition leader’s jailer. He pleaded with me to communicate to Western audiences that Africans have the same standards for democracy as they do—not a double standard by which the prison warden of members of the opposition could be one of a “new generation of democratic leaders.”

The international aid system has a dirty secret. Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, the nations and organizations that donate and distribute aid do not care much about democracy and they still actively support dictators. The conventional narrative is that donors supported dictators only during the cold war and ever since have promoted democracy. This is wrong.

Certainly there has been far more talk among aid donors about “good governance” since the end of the cold war. During the cold war there was a taboo on discussing the politics of aid recipients such as Joseph Mobutu of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic. Now the World Bank states forthrightly on its website: “Aid is less effective in a weak governance environment.”2 It also includes a measure of “voice and accountability” in its widely used “governance indicators” that it has produced since 1996.3 The US government aid agency USAID declares its aims to be “promoting sustainable democracy” and “expanding the global community of democracies.”4

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Even this rhetoric seems to disappear when aid is explicitly under discussion. An important aid event, the recent UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in New York, was telling in this respect. UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg gave a speech to the summit in which he did not mention democracy; yet two days later, speaking to the UN General Assembly, he said that we must “fearlessly project the ideals of democracy, equality and freedom.” Similarly, the UN itself issued a statement on World Democracy Day, September 15, 2010: “Democracy has the real potential to empower inclusive development.” Only five days later, three different senior UN officials gave opening speeches to the MDG summit without mentioning democracy.

In any case, dictators have received a remarkably constant share—around a third—of international aid expenditures since 1972. The proportion of aid received by democracies has remained stuck at about one fifth (the rest are in a purgatory called “Partly Free” by Freedom House). As for US foreign aid, despite all the brave pronouncements such as the ones I’ve quoted, more than half the aid budget still went to dictators during the most recent five years for which figures are available (2004–2008).

And there are still modern-day counterparts to Mobutu and Bokassa. Paul Biya, the dictator of Cameroon, is marking his twenty-eighth year in power in 2010 by receiving the latest in a never-ending series of loans from the International Monetary Fund with imaginative labels like “Poverty Reduction Growth Facilities.” Biya, whose government also enjoys ample oil revenues, has received a total of $35 billion in foreign aid during his reign. There’s been neither poverty reduction nor growth in his country: the average Cameroonian is poorer today than when Biya took power in 1982.

In February 2008, Biya’s security forces killed one hundred people during a demonstration against food price increases and also against a constitutional amendment that will extend his rule to 2018. Many of the victims were “apparently shot in the head at point-blank range.”5 The IMF justification for the newest loan in June 2009 noted laconically that these “social tensions” have not recurred and “the political situation is stable.”6

Helen Epstein recently described in these pages the support that aid donors give to Ethiopia’s tyrant Meles Zenawi, who has roughly matched Biya in aid receipts in a shorter period of time.7 Peter Gill in his excellent recent book Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid (2010) documents Meles’s misdeeds further, which rise to the level of war crimes in his counterinsurgency in Ethiopia’s Somali region (I reviewed the book for The Wall Street Journal on September 7, 2010).8 Other long-serving aid-receiving dictators include Idriss Déby in Chad ($6 billion in aid between 1990 and the present), Lansana Conté in Guinea ($11 billion between 1984 and his death in 2008), Paul Kagame in Rwanda ($10 billion between 1994 and the present), and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda ($31 billion between 1986 and the present).

The use of foreign aid to support dictators is not limited to Africa. Cambodia’s Hun Sen has been in power for twenty-five years and has received nearly $10 billion in aid during that time.9 Human rights groups have documented a progressive deterioration in rights during his rule, including forcible evictions of the poor from their land, repression of both the press and peaceful demonstrations, extrajudicial killings, and trafficking in women and children.10 Donors periodically protest, such as when the European Union “raised concerns” in August 2009, but aid continues to increase.

Another region of aid-financed tyranny is Central Asia, where the autocrats of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan have been in power since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Each has received about $3 billion in aid while in power.

To be fair to the donors, they do sometimes show concern for democracy. Donor countries became involved in internationally supervised elections in formerly war-torn societies like Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Donors such as the US also applied pressure to Kenya to conform to democratic principles after the longtime autocrat Daniel Arap Moi left office, and again in 2007–2008 when there was a seriously flawed election.11 However, other flawed elections happened with little complaint from donors (such as in Nigeria in 2007), not to mention the farcical “elections” in the aid-supported dictatorships I have mentioned. Moreover, the democratic standards endorsed by donors have generally been inadequate, concerning primarily the mechanics of elections, while ignoring such important issues as protection of human rights and freedom of speech. How can voters have a fair choice if opponents of the regime live in fear of arrest and torture?

Why didn’t the end of the cold war change aid practices? One explanation is that something analogous to the cold war is still inducing donors to support some dictators: the “war on terror” that has been going on since 2001. This helps explain the support of tyrants in Central Asia—such as President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan—whose cooperation is sought for the US/NATO war in Afghanistan. It also explains US support for Ethiopia, which it hopes will be a reliable Western ally in the terrorist war zone of the Horn of Africa. But other corrupt dictators who receive large amounts of aid, such as Biya in Cameroon, are not strategically important to the donors.

A more important political motive for aid is independent of cold wars or wars on terror. Aid agencies exist to give aid, so they must keep the money flowing. The department of an aid agency assigned to help a country may not get a budget next year if its officials don’t disburse to the country’s ruler this year; so they hand out funds no matter how autocratic he is. (The autocratic recipients know this and know they can ignore any “raised concerns” about democracy, including human rights.) Only the most well-publicized and egregious violators of democratic principles—like Robert Mugabe—get cut off.

Donor countries that claim they are politically neutral are not. Aid increases the slush funds available to the government, financing more repression of democratic opposition. The government can deny aid to opposition supporters, as a new Human Rights Watch report found occurred in Ethiopia in 2009–2010. As one farmer told HRW, “[Village] leaders have publicly declared that they will single out opposition members, and those identified as such will be denied…access to fertilizers, ‘safety net’ and even emergency aid….” Aid also increases the incentive to stay in power, making the government all the more unwilling to risk the voters’ verdict.12 The African writer and economist Dambisa Moyo in her book Dead Aid (2009) observes this tendency. “With easy access to cash,” she writes, “a government remains all-powerful, accountable (and only then nominally) to its aid donors.”13 How can donor countries and agencies live with such hypocrisy? From the very beginning, aid history is awash with rationalizations for donors supporting autocracy.

The existing aid system took hold during the late colonial era, at a time when colonialism (autocratic itself, obviously) was expected to endure. A longtime British colonial official named Lord Hailey pushed through the Colonial Development and Welfare Act of 1940. Hailey said, “A new conception of our [colonial] relationship…may emerge as part of the movement for the betterment of the backward peoples of the world.” This was at a time when the Colonial Office said that “most Africans are still savages” and “they will probably not be fit for complete independence for centuries.” This story is told in detail in an undeservedly obscure book, Lord Hailey, the Colonial Office and the Politics of Race and Empire in the Second World War (2000) by Suke Wolton, who summed up the prevailing view of the time:

The major powers would continue to be able to determine the future of the colonial territories—only this time the source of their legitimacy was based…on their new role as protector and developmental economist14

A recent book by Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace (already reviewed in these pages, but not from this angle), tells a similar story.15 A key figure in the founding of the United Nations was the South African Jan Smuts, who actually drafted the famous preface to the UN Charter that committed the organization among other things to “the economic and social advancement of all peoples.” In a speech to the UN Conference in 1945, Smuts said he was “including dependent peoples, still unable to look after themselves.” Smuts too expected colonial empires to last, and the UN Charter said nothing about the independence of any colony.


Of course, the colonial system itself fell apart soon after these statements. But this had less to do with any change in these ideas than with the postwar collapse of Britain and France as military powers. And as Wolton noted, the old colonial powers were reborn as aid donors who still today have the role of “protector and developmental economist.”

After all, the idea of aid is that, along with the necessary funds, the donors have superior knowledge—about health, agriculture, technology, institutions—that they are conveying to the recipients. Why let the ignorant recipients vote on what to do when the donors already know? As the future Nobel laureate Gunnar Myrdal said in 1956: “Super-planning HAS to be staged [with]…a largely apathetic and illiterate citizenry…this is why [planning] is unanimously endorsed by experts in the advanced countries.”

Of course, today’s “experts” can no longer be so frank, and have to use code words. One code phrase is “benevolent autocrats,” a concept sometimes disguised even further with code words like “developmental state” or “strong leadership.” The World Bank Growth Commission Report in 2008 gave as one of its few unambiguous conclusions: “Growth at such a quick pace, over such a long period, requires strong political leadership.” Unfortunately for this view, as Dani Rodrik of Harvard has recently summarized the academic consensus, “authoritarian growth” is not a generally workable formula but a “myth.”16 For every Lee Kuan Yew there is a Paul Biya.

On the above list of aid-receiving autocrats, the one most likely to be seen by outsiders as a “benevolent autocrat” is Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia previously had this role, before a few too many jailings and shootings. Before that it was Yoweri Museveni in Uganda, until it became clear that there was too much corruption in Uganda and that he had an unseemly determination to stay in power at all costs. Now Kagame seems to be going the same route, as shown by the Rwanda elections in August, which were preceded by repression of the opposition and mysterious assassination attempts. Benevolent autocrats have the distressing habit of not staying benevolent.

It is always possible that an autocrat will be able to advance development. But the donors’ use of this possibility is inherently undemocratic—they presume to evaluate the ruler instead of the citizens (usually based on questionable information), and thus undemocratically decide who should have democracy.

A similar presumption informs Paul Collier’s book Wars, Guns, and Votes(2009), in which he goes from an empirical proposition that democracy in poor countries increases political violence (a conceivable conclusion, even though based on dubious criteria for defining democracy in this case) to a recommendation that donors oppose elections in the “Bottom Billion” in the aftermath of civil wars. There may indeed be tradeoffs between democracy and other development goals, but why should outside aid donors be the ones who make these tradeoffs?

The concept of development helps rationalize the position of autocrats by postulating an unstoppable transition toward a bright future. This is why donors call all poor countries “developing.” Once the donors started paying lip service to democracy, they could label undemocratic aid recipients as “democratizing.” Let’s call this the Gerund Defense for supporting dictators. Thomas Carothers, an expert on the connections between aid and democracy, described the Gerund Defense in a classic article. He quoted a USAID description of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2001 as a country in “transition to a democratic, free market society.”17 (Such “democratizing” is still notably weak in 2010.)

The World Bank’s response to Helen Epstein’s article in these pages accusing the bank of supporting Ethiopian tyranny is a classic Gerund Defense. The World Bank’s country director for Ethiopia and Sudan, Ken Ohashi, replied:

We start…with a belief that in every country people want…to develop a transparent, accountable…governance system. Ethiopia is no exception. Our task…is to support that innate tendency.

However, building institutions… takes a long time…. Changes are incremental, and at times they may suffer serious setbacks….18

The Gerund Defense has the attraction of being irrefutable. We don’t know the future, so we don’t know whether a particular event is a “setback” to “building institutions,” or whether the “building” is a myth. We could of course observe the actual trend in “democratizing”—but this has been discouraging in Ethiopia, where parties and politicians that seriously challenge the government risk prison. Donors could conceivably overlook anything, even the 1994 Rwanda genocide, as a temporary “setback” to an “innate tendency.” Such a view is not as easily dismissed as you might think.

The World Bank in 1991 concluded that “Rwanda has made a creditable effort toward social and economic development,” although the Hutu government was already complicit in massacres of hundreds of Tutsis by Hutu mobs in separate incidents in October 1990, January 1991, and February 1991.19 The World Bank gave several aid credits to the government between 1991 and 1993. To be fair, this looks worse in hindsight, because the bank could not have anticipated such a rare event as genocide. Yet in what must be the historic record for a tone-deaf conception of aid, the World Bank saw no reason not to issue an anodyne report on Rwanda on May 16, 1994—when, by the report’s own admission, the genocide had been going on for six weeks. The report made recommendations like:

As immediate steps to control the budget deficit the Government needs to (a) re-establish budgetary controls and discipline, (b) reduce spending in non-productive areas including the military….20

The World Bank did at least finally suspend aid during the genocide, but the French government continued to aid the Hutu government even after the genocide had become public knowledge.

Faced with this indifference to tyranny of even the most lethal kind, African intellectuals are increasingly beginning to protest. In her book Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo struck a nerve because she protested so eloquently against the paternalism, presumption, and double standards of the donor countries’ aid agencies. In many cases, foreign aid, as a review of her book put it, “fostered dependency, encouraged corruption and ultimately perpetuated poor governance and poverty.”21 One of her central points is that aid can, in effect, disenfranchise Africans, since the population cannot “hold its government accountable.” The courageous journalist Andrew Mwenda started an independent newspaper in Uganda and has already survived several attempts by the autocratic Museveni to silence him for his criticisms of corrupt and ineffective practices. The Sudanese entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim has created an “index of good governance” in Africa and awarded an annual prize to a democratic leader who has voluntarily left office. Far from bending to any lower standard for Africa, Ibrahim has refused to award the prize the last two years for lack of an adequate candidate.

The history of democracy is that of a fight against double standards, of recognizing equal rights for black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, women and men, Muslims and Hindus, the rich and the poor. When will aid donors cease support for unequal rights in their actions as well as their rhetoric?

Recognizing the double standards in aid, perhaps also speaking for the opposition leader who was a victim of “a new generation of democratic leaders,” Mo Ibrahim said:

All Africans have a right to live in freedom and prosperity and to select their leaders through fair and democratic elections, and the time has come when Africans are no longer willing to accept lower standards of governance than those in the rest of the world.22

He knows that recognition of democratic values eventually leads to their realization; lack of recognition continues the subjugation of the poor.

  1. Penguin, 2005. 
  2. See
  3. Governance Matters 2009: Release of Worldwide Governance Indicators 1996–2008 ,” press release, June 29, 2009. However, reportedly bowing to protests by China, the bank says the indicators “are not used by the World Bank Group to allocate resources [aid].” 
  4. See
  5. See
  6. International Monetary Fund, ” Cameroon Staff Report for the 2009 Article IV Consultation and Request for Disbursement Under the Rapid-Access Component of the Exogenous Shocks Facility ,” prepared by the African Department (in collaboration with other departments), approved by Mark Plant and Dhaneshwar Ghura, June 19, 2009. 
  7. Cruel Ethiopia ,” The New York Review , May 13, 2010. 
  8. Famine and Foreigners: Ethiopia Since Live Aid (Oxford University Press, 2010). 
  9. OECD Development Assistance Committee Database; data are through the last available year, 2008. 
  10. See
  11. See Roger Cohen, ” How Kofi Annan Rescued Kenya ,” The New York Review , August 14, 2008. 
  12. Simeon Djankov, Jose G. Montalvo, and Marta Reynal-Querol, “The Curse of Aid,” Journal of Economic Growth , Vol. 13, No. 3 (September 2008); Stephen Knack, “Does Foreign Aid Promote Democracy?,” International Studies Quarterly , Vol. 48, No. 1 (March 2004). 
  13. Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008). For similar arguments, see Todd Moss, Gunilla Pettersson, and Nicolas van de Walle, “An Aid-Institutions Paradox? A Review Essay on Aid Dependency and State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa,” in Reinventing Foreign Aid, edited by William Easterly (MIT Press, 2008), and Nicolas Van de Walle, African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, 1979–1999 (Cambridge University Press, 2001). 
  14. St. Martin’s, 2000, p. 130. 
  15. Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (Princeton University Press, 2009). See the review by Brian Urquhart, ” Finding the Hidden UN ,” The New York Review , May 27, 2010. 
  16. Dani Rodrik, “The Myth of Authoritarian Growth,” Project Syndicate, August 9, 2010. See
  17. Thomas Carothers, Critical Mission: Essays on Democracy Promotion (Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, 2004), p. 169. 
  18. “‘ Cruel Ethiopia ,'” Letters, The New York Review , June 24, 2010. 
  19. Peter Uvin, Aiding Violence: The Development Enterprise in Rwanda (Kumarian Press, 1998), p. 65. 
  20. Report No. 12465-RW, “Rwanda Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Growth,” Population and Human Resources Division, South-Central and Indian Ocean Department, Africa Region, May 16, 1994. 
  21. William Wallis, “Foreign Aid Critic Spreads Theory Far and Fast,” Financial Times , May 23, 2009. 
  22. Mohamed (Mo) Ibrahim, “Prerequisite to Prosperity: Why Africa’s Future Depends on Better Governance,” Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Winter 2009). 

Entrevista a Aminata Traoré

Aminata Traoré foi ministra da Cultura e Turismo do Mali entre 1997 e 2000 e actualmente coordena o Fórum Outro Mali. Nesta entrevista concedida à Casa África, Traoré fala-nos da independência de Mali 50 anos depois, da ajuda ao desenvolvimento e das consequências da crise económica em África.

Towards a new international development architecture for LDCs

25 November 2010 13:00-14:30 (GMT+00) – Public event, Overseas Development Institute and screened live online

Workers surrounded by sugarcane, Guyana (Source: Mareike Meyn, ODI)

  • Charles Gore will launch UNCTADs Least Developed Countries Report 2010, outlining recommendations for a “New International Development Architecture”. He will be joined on the panel by Stephany Griffith-Jones of Columbia University.
    Charles Gore – Special Coordinator for Cross-sectoral Issues, Division for Africa, LDCs and Special Programmes, UNCTAD
    Stephany Griffith-Jones – Financial Markets Director, Initiative for Policy Dialogue, Columbia University
    Dirk Willem te Velde – Head of Investment and Growth, ODI
    Andy Norton – Director of Research, ODI


  • An ODI and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) public event.

UNCTAD will be releasing their Least Developed Countries Report 2010: Towards a New International Development Architecture for LDCs. The report says that the least developed countries (LDCs), which were unable to diversify their economies and significantly reduce poverty during the boom years of 2002-2007, when growth averaged 7% per year, do not have good prospects as they exit the recession. The report suggests the international approaches to helping LDCs must be changed.

Charles Gore will outline the reports recommendations, highlighting calls for a “New International Development Architecture” (NIDA) that would, among other things:

  • make helpful technology more easily available to LDCs and less restricted by intellectual property rules;
  • make early results of the Doha trade negotiations that are favourable to LDCs available whatever the fate of the overall negotiations;
  • take steps to stabilize global commodities prices — that is, the prices of basic food staples and raw industrial materials;
  • vastly increase financing to help LDCs adapt to climate change;
  • and, especially, channel much more funding and international attention towards increasing LDCs’ productive capacities — that is, their abilities to produce a broader variety of goods, and more sophisticated goods.

Lennon vs. Bono

By William Easterly | Published November 24, 2010

I watched last night a remarkable documentary on the life of John Lennon called “Imagine.” For my generation, it’s pretty much automatic that Lennon is our hero, and I am no different.

But then I thought, do I have a double standard? I criticize celebrity musicians today like Bono for taking on a role like “Africa expert,” because we would never put rock stars in charge of say, Federal Reserve Policy. Yet Lennon was also a politically active celebrity rock star – why shouldn’t I make the same criticism of his career?

Well, I still think there is a big difference between Lennon and Bono. Lennon’s anti-war activities courageously challenged the power of the status quo, so much so that he was frequently harassed by the police and FBI.  Bono’s support of aid to Africa and the MDGs is more like a feel-good consensus that does NOT challenge Power. Celebrity counter-weight to established power seems much more constructive than celebrity expert.

Bono did photo ops with George W. Bush; Lennon doing a photo op with Richard Nixon would have been inconceivable.

Lennon had a real impact protesting the Viet Nam war. Where are Bono and today’s other celebrity activists on the injustices and human rights violations of the War on Terror, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay?

Sachs sobre a ajuda ao desenvolvimento