Programs must be owned by Africans, they must be African-led, they must be sustainable and Africans must be accountable.
Five perspectives on the aid to Africa issue from NPR, the debate, held on December 4, 2007 at the Asia Society and Museum in New York City.
C. Payne Lucas, a co-founder and former president of Africare, senior adviser to AllAfrica Global Media and president of the business consultancy Lodestar, says: "One thing about Africa: It is capable of change, and that's what we're working with. We now have a woman in Liberia by the name of Johnson Sirleaf, who walked into a living hell and now is going to build a nation-state. She will not be able to build it without the help of the American community and the development community.
"No, aid is (currently) not right, but we have an opportunity to change it. One thing we have learned over the years: Our programs must be owned by Africans, they must be African-led, they must be sustainable and they must be accountable."
William Easterly, a professor of economics at New York University, co-director of NYU's Development Research Institution and a nonresident fellow of the Center for Global Development, says: "...We've already spent, as official donors, $600 billion in aid to Africa over the past 45 years, and after all that, children are still not getting the 12-cent medicines (to fight malaria). So there were still between 1 million and 3 million deaths from malaria last year. So aid would be a great thing if it worked. But the sad tragedy is that — and this is really one of the scandals of our generation — money meant for the most desperate people in the world is simply not reaching them: $600 billion in aid to Africa over the past 45 years, and over that time period there's basically been zero rise in living standards."
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George Ayittey, president of the Free Africa Foundation and distinguished economist in residence at American University, says: "There are a couple of misconceptions about aid that we need to clear up. First of all, aid, foreign aid, is not free. It is a very soft loan, which is given to a government at concessional rates. Now, the second thing about aid is that aid is tied. Eighty percent of U.S. aid to Africa is spent right here in America — on American contractors, American suppliers, and so forth. French aid is even worse... "Now, we're not suggesting now don't help Africa. But if you want to help Africa, folks, please, for Pete's sake, ask the Africans what they want. Don't assume that you know better than the Africans. What Africans want — three things: reform, reform, reform."
John McArthur, associate director of the Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, senior macroeconomic adviser in the U.N. Development Program's Africa Bureau and former deputy director of the U.N. Millennium Project, says: "What do we get for it? We've heard that nothing, nothing has been achieved. Well, let's talk about some of those successes. There's the smallpox eradication that happened around the world, of course, thanks to, I have to say, the U.N.'s World Health Organization that set the target, set up a Smallpox Eradication Unit and got rid of the disease.
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"There's the fight against AIDS. In 2002, we had perhaps 50,000 people on antiretroviral treatment in Africa. Thanks to the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and the U.S. President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, we now have well over a million people on antiretroviral treatment within just five years."
David Rieff, a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and contributing editor to The New Republic, says: "The problem with aid, in short, is that it sets itself up as the kind of know-all and end-all. ...Aid, by definition, is outsiders telling people in a place how to do it, and telling them if they don't behave satisfactorily — that is, the best practices that you now see in humanitarianism: if you're not democratic, if you are not transparent, if you don't do this, that or the other thing — then we will withdraw the aid. Well, if ever there was an example of any unequal form of relations, I would submit to you that that's it, which is why, precisely, in depriving people of their agency, aid does more harm than good."