It is time we went cold turkey on aid

THERE has been a huge stick that the West often threatens to use on us poor Africans whenever they please. This ‘stick’ is denial of aid. The debate about the power that aid has in poor nations has been discussed in great detail in books like Dambisa Moyo’s ‘Dead Aid’ and in speeches made by our very own president, Paul Kagame.

THERE has been a huge stick that the West often threatens to use on us poor Africans whenever they please.

This ‘stick’ is denial of aid. The debate about the power that aid has in poor nations has been discussed in great detail in books like Dambisa Moyo’s ‘Dead Aid’ and in speeches made by our very own president, Paul Kagame.

The belief that aid is the ‘be all and ends all’ is dangerous. What is even more dangerous is the belief that aid should be used like a weapon.

A leading article in The Independent, a British daily, on the 10th of this month titled ‘The UK has influence in Rwanda. We should use it’, advocated the latter.

The author wrote that…“The UK remains the largest single donor to the government in Kigali, a contribution that President Paul Kagame, who was expected to win re-election convincingly yesterday, cannot afford to ignore…”

The writer was of the view that since the UK was a major donor, they could, and should, dictate Rwandan internal policy.

Aid, and the entire industry that it hinges upon, is interesting. It often hides behind humanitarianism but I believe that aid is actually a foreign relations instrument- just as handy as an armed force.

The aid industry will attempt to spread the myth that aid is meant to “help the poor Africans” and a naïf will believe that; this is because while it often doesn’t change much, sometimes it does.

As the President has said many a time, Africa has received billions in aid since independence but GDP has been falling for decades nevertheless. But this injection of aid hasn’t stopped either; why is this so? It is because aid is quite the effective ‘carrot and stick’. If you behave and play the game, ‘free money’ a.k.a aid is dished out. If you don’t you lose that free money.

The myth of free money, in the form of aid, is slowly being debunked in Africa and Rwanda in particular. This aid always has strings attached and the Independent article confirmed this.

The article showed, in black and white, that the possible ill-effect of the UK aid tap being turned off was the last thing on the writers mind. Rather, what was important was spreading British influence in the inner workings of the Rwandan government. That is neo-colonialism in a nutshell.
Those westerners agitating for a halt in the aid flow to Rwanda do it because of a paternalistic, neo-colonial attitude they have towards Africa and African aspirations- and not because they really care about us. I guess they have the right really. It’s their tax money and it’s up to us, the recipients to change this dynamic.

The people that really bother me are the so-called ‘opposition’ politicians in Rwanda and outside Rwanda who constantly attempt to turn public opinion against Rwanda in the hope that the aid is either reduced or completely turned off. I think they are rather dangerous.

It is universally acknowledged that aid money actually reaches its beneficiaries in Rwanda. Transparency International, the anti-graft body, reported that corruption in Rwanda is the lowest in the region.

So, unlike certain countries, aid here isn’t either used to line the pockets of the political elite or to curry favour with the electorate. So, what these opposition members are advocating for is the removal of beneficial programmes, which empower Rwandans and improve their standards of living, just so that they can say to the people “look what your government has done”.

I find this kind of politics, and the politicians that espouse this philosophy, cheap because it isn’t about improving the lives of Rwandans but rather improving the lives of these politicians.

These politicians would rather the Rwandan people received fewer mosquito nets, less health facilities and poorer education just to make themselves politically relevant to the ‘muturage’ in Kamonyi district. They would let them regress socially and economically because it was in their best interest. This Machiavellian train of thought is despicable.

All this makes me realise one thing; we have to work extremely hard to wean ourselves off the aid ‘heroin’ because that’s the only way that we’ll stop being dictated to by wiseacres and their cohorts.

sunnyntayombya@newtimes.co.rw

 

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