Foreign Aid Foreign Aid, charity, development assistance…whatever you call it, it
has become a global activity. The assistance is delivered by various
means: government-to-government, pooled multilaterally or channeled
through non-governmental organisations of all sizes. Actually, the
bulk of foreign aid is funneled through international financial
institutions like the World Bank, which gives grants, loans and
advice, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which gives loans
with strict requirements.
David Sogge is an independent aid analyst and consultant based in The
Netherlands. In his book Give and Take: What's the Matter with Foreign
Aid? He suggests that even compassionate forms of aid like feeding the
hungry can have dramatic and sometimes negative effects on those it
seeks to help. Changing Habits
"Clearly food aid has helped people in situations of great distress
survive. But I think we have to look at food aid's original purposes.
Why was it launched in the first place? Clearly one major reason has
been surplus production in North America and Western Europe - wheat,
maize and other grains and milk and butter."
David Sogge argues that food aid changed Africa's diets and created a
dependency on an expensive, foreign commodity: bread. "Wheat is grown
in only a few corners of Africa and at greater cost than it is grown
in Western Europe or North America. So those countries are sometimes
paying substantial parts of their foreign exchange earnings to buy
wheat from Canada, the US, from Europe to make the bread in the
bakeries to feed people who have these new eating habits.
A Trickle Too Little
Whether America intentionally used food aid to turn Africans into
consumers of wheat, and especially American wheat, is debatable. But
David Sogge suggests that the political and economic interests of
donor or lender countries usually influence who gets foreign aid and
how. Relieving poverty has only relatively recently becomes a
fundamental criterion for assessing aid's success.