Opinion: Why Africa needs a marshall plan

Donor watchers say Africa has received more than a trillion US dollars' worth of aid over the past 50 years, but successes are rather few.


By Danny Meyer

Failure by donor agencies to achieve an intended result is regularly highlighted by skeptics in their debates on the value of foreign aid to developing countries.


Some say a donor country is the real beneficiaries of its aid, as it creates jobs for their citizens and markets for goods and services made in that country.

Critics claim developed countries allow donor agencies appointed to implement programmes to make the developing world their playground – a playground which is then littered with broken toys.

Donor watchers say Africa has received more than a trillion US dollars’ worth of aid over the past 50 years, but successes are rather few.

To give credence to their view donor bashers are quick to draw attention to collapsed programmes and to point out failed donor-initiated projects across Africa.

The belief that all donor aid is a waste of time and money is rather naive.

It is not all gloom and doom. There are many examples of successful interventions by the donor community, especially in the areas of health, education, and infrastructural development.

Polio immunisation roll-out in even the most remote parts of the continent, programmes combating the HIV-AIDS pandemic, and the international community’s response to the Ebola virus outbreak in Africa are notable examples.

As for education, school enrolment has steadily risen over the past years in countries all over the continent, because of donor intervention.

And more girls in Africa now attend school than ever before.

Newly established donor-funded universities and vocational trading centres are producing much-needed skills.

Evidence exists to show that programmes incorporating input by beneficiaries on intended targeted outcomes, rather than only views imposed by a donor, have a better success rate.

There are many examples of aid done right and aid done wrong, but the reality is that when done correctly aid is effective.

Success is linked to implementation by making use of credible organisations that are accountable for deeds and actions.

The book ‘A good African story’ is an interesting read.

The author Ugandan entrepreneur Andrew Rugasira, points out that far too many aid programmes are poorly structured, fungible, insincere and conditional.

Rugasira advocates that more emphasis be placed on donor aid that will help economies grow and that such aid be in the form of enterprise and entrepreneurial development support programmes.

Encouragingly, one observes that what Rugasira advocated years ago when he penned his book is now coming to pass. That across the continent an increasing number of donor support programmes are now directed towards private sector development.

This renewed approach by donors should not come as a surprise as a country’s private sector is the creator of wealth and jobs, and funds most of government revenue through taxes.

As for accountability, in the private sector ownership is unambiguous. An enterprise is either owned by an entrepreneur or by its shareholders who take responsibility and are accountable.

To help war-torn Europe recover in 1948, the United States of America launched the Marshall Plan. And with its strong focus on the private sector, the intended result was achieved.

What does Africa need to grow economically?

A Marshall-type of plan with a strong private sector development slant is a no-brainer.

Danny Meyer is reachable at danny@smecompete.com.