Many leaders in developing countries, some once in a while, others all the time, receive unsolicited lessons from their counterparts, or lowly government bureaucrats in the developed countries about human rights, democracy, rule of law etc.
The reverse is always never. Rarely will you find anybody from developing countries offering lessons to their counterparts about how to manage their own affairs. This does not mean there is nothing of substance the developing world can offer as lessons to those who have developed; after all some are now in economic doldrums and have no magic formula out of the predicament.
There are plenty of lessons for them, but in reality, things rarely work out that way. Most of the lectures they offer are based on the fact that they tie aid to conditions. Well, it is important that a minimum level of decency is applied. In most cases, many conditions which are irrelevant or out of context still exist.
When I read that oil rich Angola was asked to bail out its former Portuguese colonial masters who are under the strain of a collapsed economy, I couldn’t help but chuckle. How did we come to this? Well as I read the story, I hoped to read if Angolans would demand some conditions like the Westerners always do when offering a helping hand.
Now that roles have been reversed in the Angola –Portugal relationship, what if the Europeans were asked that as a condition for getting some help, be it investment or whatever form they will be required to advocate for the human rights of say African immigrants in the Europe. What if they were told to ensure that no black player in the European football league will ever be subjected to racist taunts that seem to be the order of the day in some football leagues in Europe?
This scenario is not likely to happen. Apparently its not that all those who give aid, attach degrading and dehumanising conditionalities! It is most probably a cultural thing. This is because a country like China never or rarely ties the same conditionalities like the Europeans or North Americans do. The history of the relationship between Africa and Europe is an unfortunate one.
From slave trade to colonialism and recently neo colonial imperial ambitions, it is not that aid is based on altruism generosity. It is a foreign policy tool rather than a genuine effort to assist. That’s why, as anti aid campaigns continue to argue, aid has never developed any country.
The aid debate is a controversial one. Intellectuals from developing countries that have made a compelling case against the conditions of aid have been reminded that had it not been for aid, they would never have gotten the quality Harvard, Sorbonne or Oxford education that ensured their success. Such is true probably for the majority of successful Africans and others who have become anti-aid intellectuals. But again, it is a mark of bad manners to always remind them of the aid they received.
It is apparent that there are people and countries that need foreign assistance. Somalia seems to be in a permanent aid reliance situation. But to always make degrading demands on such a people or any one else, neuters the possibility that foreign aid bodes well. This creates a situation where it is viewed as tokenism that does no long term good, hence the ineffectiveness of aid.