Why foreign aid fails - and how to really help Africa

There just isn't the political will, in Britain or elsewhere, to really act on our analysis

25 January 2014

9:00 AM

25 January 2014

9:00 AM

David Cameron speaks compellingly about international aid. Eradicating poverty, he says, means certain institutional changes: rights for women and minorities, a free media and integrity in government. It means the freedom to participate in society and have a say over how your country is run. We wholeheartedly agree and were flattered to see the Prime Minister tell this magazine that he is ‘obsessed’ by our book on the subject, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. But diagnosing a problem is one thing; fixing it another. And we don’t yet see the political will — in Britain or elsewhere — that could turn this analysis into a practical agenda.

The British government is strikingly generous in foreign aid donations. It spent £8.7 billion on foreign aid in 2012 — which is 0.56 per cent of national income. This is to rise to £11.7 billion, or 0.7 per cent of national income, next year. But if money alone were the solution we would be along the road not just to ameliorating the lives of poor people today but ending poverty for ever.

Photo: Photothek via Getty Images

Photo: Photothek via Getty Images

The idea that large donations can remedy poverty has dominated the theory of economic development — and the thinking in many international aid agencies and governments — since the 1950s. And how have the results been? Not so good, actually. Millions have moved out of abject poverty around the world over the past six decades, but that has had little to do with foreign aid. Rather, it is due to economic growth in countries in Asia which received little aid. The World Bank has calculated that between 1981 and 2010, the number of poor people in the world fell by about 700 million — and that in China over the same period, the number of poor people fell by 627 million.

In the meantime, more than a quarter of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa are poorer now than in 1960 — with no sign that foreign aid, however substantive, will end poverty there. Last year, perhaps the most striking illustration came from Liberia, which has received massive amounts of aid for a decade. In 2011, according to the OECD, official development aid to Liberia totalled $765 million, and made up 73 per cent of its gross national income. The sum was even larger in 2010. But last year every one of the 25,000 students who took the exam to enter the University of Liberia failed. All of the aid is still failing to provide a decent education to Liberians.

One could imagine that many factors have kept sub-Saharan Africa poor — famines, civil wars. But huge aid flows appear to have done little to change the development trajectories of poor countries, particularly in Africa. Why? As we spell out in our book, this is not to do with a vicious circle of poverty, waiting to be broken by foreign money. Poverty is instead created by economic institutions that systematically block the incentives and opportunities of poor people to make things better for themselves, their neighbours and their country.


Let us take for Exhibit A the system of apartheid in South Africa, which Nelson Mandela dedicated himself to abolishing. In essence, apartheid was a set of economic institutions — rules that governed what people could or could not do, their opportunities and their incentives. In 1913, the South African government declared that 93 per cent of South Africa was the ‘white economy’, while 7 per cent was for blacks (who constituted about 70 per cent of the population). Blacks had to have a pass, a sort of internal passport, to travel to the white economy. They could not own property or start a business there. By the 1920s the ‘Colour Bar’ banned blacks from undertaking any skilled or professional occupation. The only jobs blacks could take in the white economy were as unskilled workers on farms, in mines or as servants for white people. Such economic institutions, which we call ‘extractive’, sap the incentives and opportunities of the vast mass of the population and thereby keep a society poor.


The people in poor countries have the same aspirations as those in rich countries — to have the same chances and opportunities, good health care, clean running water in their homes and high-quality schools for their children. The problem is that their aspirations are blocked today — as the aspirations of black people were in apartheid South Africa — by extractive institutions. The poor don’t pull themselves out of poverty, because the basic ability to do so is denied them. You could see this in the protests behind the Arab Spring: those in Cairo’s Tahrir Square spoke in one voice about the corruption of the government, its inability to deliver public services and the lack of equality of opportunity. Poverty in Egypt cannot be eradicated with a bit more aid. As the protestors recognised, the economic impediments they faced stemmed from the way political power was exercised and monopolised by a narrow elite.

This is by no means a phenomenon confined to the Arab world. That the poor people in poor countries themselves understand their predicament is well illustrated by the World Bank’s multi-country project ‘Voices of the Poor’. One message that persistently comes across is that poor people feel powerless — as one person in Jamaica put it, ‘Poverty is like living in jail, living under bondage, waiting to be free.’ Another from Nigeria put it like this: ‘If you want to do something and have no power to do it, it is talauchi [poverty].’ Like black people in South Africa before 1994, poor people are trapped within extractive economic institutions.

Brazilian UN Peacekeepers provide food a

Photo: AFP/Getty

But it is not just the poor who are thus trapped. By throwing away a huge amount of potential talent and energy, the entire society condemns itself to poverty.

The key to understanding and solving the problem of world poverty is to recognise not just that poverty is created and sustained by extractive institutions — but to appreciate why the situation arises in he first place. Again, South Africa’s experience is instructive. Apartheid was set up by whites for the benefit of whites. This happened because it was the whites who monopolised political power, just as they did economic opportunities and resources. These monopolies impoverished blacks and created probably the world’s most unequal country — but the system did allow whites to become as prosperous as people in developed countries.

The logic of poverty is similar everywhere. To understand Syria’s enduring poverty, you could do worse than start with the richest man in Syria, Rami Makhlouf. He is the cousin of President Bashar al-Assad and controls a series of government-created monopolies. He is an example of what are known in Syria as ‘abna al-sulta’, ‘sons of power’.

To understand Angola’s endemic poverty, consider its richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, billionaire daughter of the long-serving president. A recent investigation by Forbes magazine into her fortune concluded, ‘As best as we can trace, every major Angolan investment held by dos Santos stems either from taking a chunk of a company that wants to do business in the country or from a stroke of the president’s pen that cut her into the action.’ She does all this while, according to the World Bank, only a quarter of Angolans had access to electricity in 2009 and a third are living on incomes of less than $2 a day.

Recognising that poor countries are poor because they have extractive institutions helps us understand how best to help them. It also casts a different light on the idea of foreign aid. We do not argue for its reduction. Even if a huge amount of aid is siphoned off by the powerful, the cash can still do a lot of good. It can put roofs on schools, lay roads or build wells. Giving money can feed the hungry, and help the sick — but it does not free people from the institutions that make them hungry and sick in the first place. It doesn’t free them from the system which saps their opportunities and incentives. When aid is given to governments that preside over extractive institutions, it can be at best irrelevant, at worst downright counter-productive. Aid to Angola, for example, is likely to help the president’s daughter rather than the average citizen.

Many kleptocratic dictators such as Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko have been propped up by foreign aid. And it wasn’t foreign aid that helped to undermine the apartheid regime in South Africa and got Nelson Mandela out of prison, but international sanctions. Those sanctions came from pressure on governments — including the British government — that would have preferred not to see them implemented.

Today it is no different. Governments don’t like cutting their ties to dictators who open doors for international business, or help their geopolitical agendas. Pressure needs to come from citizens who do care enough about international development to force politicians to overcome the easy temptation of short-run political expediency.

Making institutions more inclusive is about changing the politics of a society to empower the poor — the empowerment of those disenfranchised, excluded and often repressed by those monopolising power. Aid can help. But it needs to be used in such a way as to help civil society mobilise collectively, find a voice and get involved with decision-making. It needs to help manufacture inclusion.

This brings us back to David Cameron. When answering a question at New York University almost two years ago, he put it perfectly. ‘There is a huge agenda here,’ he said. It is time to ‘stop speaking simply about the quantity of aid’ and ‘start talking about what I call the “golden thread”.’ This, he explained, is his idea that long-term development through aid only happens if there is a ‘golden thread’ of stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law and transparent information.

As the Prime Minister says, this is a very different thing to setting an aid spending target. Promoting his golden thread means using not just aid but diplomatic relations to encourage reform in the many parts of the world that remain in the grip of extractive institutions. It means using financial and diplomatic clout (and Britain has plenty of both) to help create room for inclusive institutions to grow. This may be a hard task — far harder than writing a cheque. But it is the surest way to make poverty history.

Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson are the authors of Why Nations Fail, which David Cameron last week declared one of his five favourite books of all time.

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Show comments
  • scampy1

    Just look at the picture and tell us that poor people breeding like dogs is not the problem?

    • Fergus Pickering

      I think it is rabbits that you mean and it’s black people you are talking about and the picture shows nothing of the sort.

  • The Elderking

    Just look at the massive growth in the population of Ethiopia following the Bob Geldof grandstanding.. And still they starve and need even more aid.

    We have to face up to the fact that those people cannot manage their affairs – that is why they are backward.

    • Zeus

      Famine is a natural phenomenon. It means that the current population cannot be supported. Sending in aid exacerbated the situation so instead of 50million, Ethiopia now has over 80 million.

      • vieuxceps2

        Famine results from there being too many people sharing too little food.To resolve the problem, either supply more food or reduce the number of people by natural wastage.That’s how Nature works.

        • Zeus

          But increasing food just causes the population to artificially increase…that is not sustainable.

    • Bonkim

      Aid has helped increase population at the most inhospitable regions on earth.

  • Ian Walker

    A free media and integrity in government? If those are the things that Cameron desires, then maybe charity should be beginning at home?

  • xDemosthenesx

    What this article doesn’t mention is that in order to foster the golden thread required to fix the deep systemic problems faced in the third-world, you need a carrot and a stick and a much more muscular, colonial approach.

    Britain fundamentally lacks this. Our armed forces have been reduced to the point of irrelevance and the attitude of self flagellation over the empire has seeped into all pockets of government like a terminal cancer.

    Defeatism and deference is what you get out of our embassies these days – hardly likely to inspire any substantial changes.

    • Rocksy

      Why is it our job to ‘fix’ these hell holes? If we weren’t constantly throwing money at them they would learn pretty damn fast to take care of business. And if they didn’t? So what?

      • Fergus Pickering

        I’ve always thought our own poor should be culled. A few machine-guns on benefits street. That should do it.

        • Rocksy

          You may continue to donate your money to the problem as I did for decades beginning when I was a very small child and money was collected regularly in school for distribution to ‘deserving’ countries.
          I compare the state of Europe after the last war when more than 50 million died. Millions more were displaced and cities and towns almost obliterated. A few years later and you would hardly know there had been a war. Certainly after 70 years all the protaginists have managed to come together in a effort to live in peace.
          Africa and every other sink hole on the planet have made no discernible difference to their miserable condition except to line the pockets of corrupt leaders.

          • Andrew Arim

            This post is sense, i am a Ugandan living in the war ravaged south Sudan…but i concur with your idea

        • vieuxceps2

          Reductio ad absurdum is never good thinking.

        • Andrew Tucker

          The Right really is beyond parody, isn’t it. Get fucked.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Beyond your ability certainly, you rich self-righteous tit.

      • Andrew Tucker

        Then millions of the fellow human beings that you share no empathy with would die in torturous ways, and your ignorance would be at east partially to blame.

    • Rocksy

      They had their carrot, stick and muscle. Then they wanted ‘Independence’ apparently not knowing that ‘independent’ means self reliant.

  • inteducat

    It seems that our leaders find fine words … “a ‘golden thread’ of stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law and transparent information” is easier for Cameron to say, rather like the “ethical foreign policy” of New Labour.
    The article captures what is needed …
    “using not just aid but diplomatic relations to encourage reform in the many parts of the world that remain in the grip of extractive institutions. It means using financial and diplomatic clout (and Britain has plenty of both) to help create room for inclusive institutions to grow. This may be a hard task — far harder than writing a cheque. But it is the surest way to make poverty history.”

  • Alexander Young

    Do these conclusions fit a wider historical perspective? European nations became wealthy while under regimes that would now be called ‘extractive’ by the authors, where power was monopolised by a restricted elite. Singapore and Hong Kong went from third world to first while experiencing very little political freedom. These countries had intelligent and farsighted rulers who exercised a secure rule over their countries, which admittedly is something most countries lack, even Britain today…

    • Bonkim

      Chinese social cohesion, hard work and thrift made Hong Kong and Singapore what they are.

      • saffrin

        The making of Hong Kong had nothing to do with the Chinese.

        • johnslattery

          It was almost entirely due to the Chinese. Bonkim has it in one.

          • global city

            I think he meant the Chinese authorities.

        • Bonkim

          Mr Jardine facilitated the British Empire and the opium Wars helped as also British capital and international connections – but it is the hard work of the Chinese that translated capital into Chinese wealth that built Hong Kong.

          Look at Singapore or Malaya – although the British Empire was the cover and helped protect – it was Chinese entrepreneurship and the Confucian work ethic that changed the economics of this part of Asia.

      • global city

        the type of institutional and regulatory environment in which you live is also important.

        it is a vital lesson we should remember. Our NGO’s are as responsible as kleptocrats for the continued failure of parts of Africa to develop.

        Where ‘nasty capitalism’ is allowed to grow prosperity soon appears… but our NGO’s seem determined to not have poor Africans sullied by the stuff of wellbeing. It would leave them with noting to do or emote over.

        • Bonkim

          Failed and failing societies lack social organisation and cultural strength to adapt and change essential for development.

          Western societies emerged from the dark ages as they strengthened their social organisation and cast off blind religion.

          • global city

            That’s true, but you have to look at the source or cause of that failure. Nowadays it is either religion or corrupt government or a toxic combination of both.

            The human capacity to develop in the right environment has been proven over and over again. Quite often, as the example I gave in Africa, you can also add western lefty NGOs into the mix of stifling causes.

          • Bonkim

            many factors – you can find fault with many but the crux is the ability of a society to take the initiative – which it can’t unless internal organisation/culture allows them.

            Germany and Japan were both obliterated in WW2 but rose up from the ashes (yes outside help in the form of the Marshall Plan and similar to Japan were useful) by dint of their social organisation and will to succeed.

            Yes religion which is part of history and cultural baggage all contribute to social organisation.

  • Alan Davis

    I had not heard of Cameron’s ‘golden thread’ phrase – but he perfectly summarises what are critical prerequisites for long-term success in development – namely “stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law and transparent information.”
    Unfortunately, few in DFID seem aware of – or perhaps even interested in– the importance he attaches to such things. Visit Kabul and DFID last month as I did to try and find out what the UK is and has been doing in terms of combating corruption and building accountability in Afghanistan and you will leave the embassy in quiet despair. Similarly in Pakistan where there has long been the pressing need to build public ownership of public money and fiscal literacy as a key means of ending corruption and rooting accountability.

    DFID has an excellent record in poverty reduction and education, but in the
    areas identified by Cameron as crucial, they have gone backwards these past 10
    years and lost or rejected the thinking and know-how they once had.
    As Helen Clark, number three at the UNDP suggested this week, the international
    community failed in South Sudan because while it is very good at the technical
    side of aid delivery, it has collectively failed to get to grips with
    governance which surely lies at the heart of all sustainable development. Part of the problem is that it is very easy to count and deliver mosquito nets, less so accountability, stability and inclusion.
    The obvious irony though is that were DFID to make governance much more of a priority than it now is support the bottom-up, demand side of accountability, then it will ultimately help deliver the kind of long term impact and value for money- not to mention UK security -that everybody is demanding from the overseas aid budget.

    • johnslattery

      Of the five, “stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law and transparent information,” only one, stable government, is necessary for growth to take off. The others cannot be achieved before a society is already developed. The only form of stable government that works in the Third World is enlightened dictatorship.

      • mikewaller

        And one really has to wonder whether all five are themselves only temporary products of economic surpluses i.e. as the good times come to an end in the first world with political parties nonetheless continuing to promise what they can no longer deliver, will democracy buckle, taking all 5 goodies with it?

  • Bonkim

    International aid is wasteful and achieves little in helping failed and failing societies.

    Haven for international charities and NGOs that get most out of aid.

    To be real – stop all aid which has perversely kept failed societies alive at locations where life is unsustainable.

    Let failed societies bite the dust. No loss to the world.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Did a human being really write that? What does the parable of the Good Samaritan mean to you, if anything? Pretty poor economics, eh? Miserable wretch. Totter off and die in a ditch..

      • Bonkim

        The parable was written when human beings were few and far between – not rats ravaging the earth’s land, water and air – not many ditches to die in – the earth is that overcrowded and resources depleting fast.

        We will all end up in the nearest ditch or roadside sooner or later.

        • Fergus Pickering

          So in these enlightened days the man would die in the middle of the road.

          • Bonkim

            Not just in the middle of the road but in ditches and on sand dunes. the world out there is harsh and only the fit survive.

          • Fergus Pickering

            I hope you are a healthy bunny.

          • Andrew Tucker

            Ah, lovely bit of social darwinism. I hope if you were in the same situation somebody would show you a little humanity, even if you were a ‘rat’. You make me sick to my stomach.

            Then again I’d expect nothing less in the Spectator.

        • global city

          Wow! What stupidity.

    • mikewaller

      Weren’t we lucky that General Marshall did not give that advice to President Truman. And in terms of practicalities, as massive Chinese interest shows, Africa – which seems to be your main target – is a major producer of primary products, much needed by the developed world. “Biting the dust” would cause massive dislocation in their production and huge waves of illegals. Your solution to these problems? Presumably major confrontations with China over what can be salvaged from the wreckage and the mass drowning of boat peoples. Or is your master plan smarter than I think?

      • Bonkim

        Prime example of what you say – the ongoing conflicts in Sudan and Central Africa – Yes – let the boat people perish. Regarding resources both China and India are busy sealing deals in Africa and Australia. Regardless of these transient effects – world populations are exploding and resources depleting fast – unlikely mankind will survive beyond a century or two at most, may be decades. No one has a master plan – we will just bumble through the recurring crisis and conflicts.

        • global city

          There we go, there’s your masterplan… and what a pile of sh*te it is too.

          • Bonkim

            I suppose idiots will wish the end never comes so they can continue to sell until closing time. You are a fake.

          • global city

            I suppose you see yourself as a realist and environmentalist?

            You are neither. You are just another glib westerner who would never put themselves on the death list they call for billions of other souls.

            Every one of them have as much right to be here as you

          • Bonkim

            Yes they have same as anyone else – question is whether all (easterners and westerners) will survive – re-read my previous post.

            Adapt and change – ask your compatriots not to breed like cockroaches and they may yet survive.

          • Guest

            quick question on this webpage actually is there any problems with international aids

          • Bonkim

            international aid stops people from adapting and changing, and finding solution to their problems. People have multiplied at locations that are inhospitable to human life and ignorant/backward religions and social and cultural behaviour make their situation worse – international aid keeps people alive in perpetual dependency.

          • Uganda CommunityFarm

            True. Aid is a waste, and here is an African Perspectives–from we Africans ourselves. Please feel free to print and circulate the poster:


          • Bonkim

            Ugandan society has to change and find solutions internally. Not depend on outsiders.

          • Uganda CommunityFarm

            Bonkim, that’s exactly the context of the poster I shared with you–and I am Ugandan. Would you like to team up with us to circulate the poster across the UK?

          • Bonkim

            Why bother circulating this in the UK?

            You need to mobilze Ugandans in Uganda to reform their society and change from inside. First of all reduce population and eradicate corrupt social norms.

          • Andrew Tucker

            Seriously Bonkim, get stuffed you irredeemable cretinous blob of wankjelly.

          • Bonkim

            Have you woken up suddenly and realized you are in the wrong world?

        • Sashka

          Oh yes there is a masterplan so stop getting your panties in a twist, and go do something useful

    • Uganda CommunityFarm

      True. Aid is a waste, and here is an African Perspectives–from we Africans ourselves. Please feel free to print and circulate poster:


    • Ashima

      Perfect methodology to garner “internet stardom” by posting comments which are obviously made senselessly (and purposely so).
      Congratulations, you’re a success here.

  • Rocksy

    I’m able to remember a description from the past. It is still true today and given the years of ‘aid’ and billions of dollars given to these places, it would still seem to be true. However I wonder how long this post will be allowed to remain up.
    The white man’s burden.

  • Common Sense ✟ كافر

    So the endless poverty, corruption, war, and barbarity is nothing to do with the people of these countries? Heaven forbid it gets mentioned that the average IQ of people from that part of the world is below average with many following a “God” which is based upon hatred of others?

    • Andrew Tucker

      Ahaahahha…said the Christian. Ever wonder whether there may be a correlation between education and IQ? Also I wouldn’t mention IQ when stating things like that.

  • Ibsen

    People like Bill Gates who are in the aid business and give their money big time say it is well worth it and brings phenomenal results. He ought to know. He pointed out that several age-old killer diseases like polio have been completely wiped out and vaccines are being developed for poor countries thanks to the money he and his like make available. He says all this talk of aid not helping is sheer bunkum. Money nowadays given to poor countries is as a rule carefully targeted and does not end up in government hands. Third World governments are corrupt but that is a separate problem. Saying foreign aid cannot help poor people is like saying you cannot do everything therefore you must do nothing.

    • Eddie

      And the more over-population occurs, the more babies survive in societies where women have 5,6,7,8 or more kids each, the more the environment is destroyed and the more endangered species are wiped out. Great huh?

      • mikewaller

        Why not lead by example? Target our population at 5 – 10 million and let the wolves and bears back.

        • Bonkim

          You have a point mike – UK population probably right around 15 million – at present our dependency index is 75%.

        • Eddie

          Or just take away child benefits – and tax those with more than 2 children another 2p in the pound per child. Oh, and chuck out illegal immigrants and close the doors to most from Africa and Asia too.

      • Factman

        I have no objection provided the ones culled include you and your like.

        • Eddie

          But I haven’t got 5, 7, 9 children, have I?

          I am all in favour of those in the UK NOT getting child benefit and paying more tax for the 3rd child and above. Scrap maternity pay linked to income too, to stop rich scroungers stealing £4 billion a year from us all.

          Can’t you understand that if the Africans and Asians do not stop breeding like rats then the wildlife of this world will be utterly destroyed? Most of it already has been.
          And anyway, once the population of the world doubles and then doubles again – which is what your emo-policies will do – Nature will take care of it herself. Then the population will reduce – some think to a core of 500 million. Back to Nature eh?
          Your post is racist, frankly – if countries with whites had on average 5,6 7 or more kids per family you’d be campaigning for action. But because those having such huge families which they cannot even feed (hence the constant begging bowl shoved in our faces for aid) are brown-skinned, you are always on their side. So what if a few babies die? These Africans have plenty more spare. 8 kids born – if half die, that still leaves 4 and a doubling of population.
          If we save the lives of all these babies, they will grow up and have 5 babies each too. The population of African countries has quadrupled since independence from Britain – largely because of aid and healthcare sent by us. Enough already! We have to be cruel to be kind and save our environment.

          TRADE, NOT AID! And anyway, China now owns Africa – a new empire you’ll no doubt love, despite it being the fascism of now (but ah, they’re so ethnic, so how can we possibly ever criticise these non-whites eh)

          • global city

            prosperity, not progroms bring down the birth rate… it has been proven over and over again.

            Eco freak misanthropes are the most dangerous people on the planet. Any cull should start with you lot.

          • William Glyndwr Morgan

            @Global City – I do not think that anybody is talking about progroms and you are right that prosperity brings down the birth-rate. Problem is… by the time African countries are prosperous they will have ten times the population so will never become prosperous! Poverty breeds poverty, locks it in. Sort of Catch 22 with interest. The world cannot wait that long. I propose positive incentives to bring the birth rate down, no progroms at all! Cash for the “snip” comes to mind. But that might not be PC to you.

          • Factman

            It is demeaning to reply to idiots like you but it is a well established fact that the healthier and better off people are the fewer kids they have. Ending poverty is the way to smaller populations. The poorer and sicker populations are, the bigger the population growth. The Congo today is an example of this.

          • Eddie

            How many children to Africans have when they live in the prosperous West then, in London or in Paris.
            In my experienced, 5 kids is average. So your theory melts away into your own pomposity then.
            Populations in Africa have quadrupled in the last 50 years. Populations of animals like rhino, elephants, lions etc are a fraction of what they were.
            Personally, I would prefer fewer people and more animal species surviving. Strange really that you think that makes me an idiot…

          • William Glyndwr Morgan

            Factman. That is always the glib reply. So do you think that there is a population problem in Africa at all? It is just being ignored by PC! One needs to get the institutions right before the population drops or stops growing (same as why nations fail, population goes through the roof). If however there was a positive incentive for fewer babies, such as cash for the “snip” overpopulation would decrease.

          • William Glyndwr Morgan

            Have you looked at the population stats for Botswana?

          • Bonkim

            Trade is bad for humanity too Eddie – the cycle of production and consumption is what is increasing population and depleting resources and destroying the earth.

            Furthermore trade from poorer countries is mainly labour intensive industries – flowers, fancy goods, rare fruits, and nuts, etc, which are luxuries for export and increases global warming because of air transport, also takes away local land that would have grown food. instead high cost food grains have then to be imported – all together an unequal dependency culture, gloabal population and consumption, and carbon emissions – totally unsustainable..

      • Magnusmaster

        The problem isn´t just overpopulation but resource consumption.
        First world countries consume far more resources than overpopulated Africa.

    • Rocksy

      Aid helps them to learn dependency. It doesn’t get them helping themselves. Aid is us helping them. Never good.

    • Bonkim

      But should you help keep children alive in failed and failing societies? Gates is helping increase world population at locations inhospitable to human life – it would have been more useful if his millions went to distribute free contraceptives, and educating the poor and ignorant not to breed like rats.

      • William Glyndwr Morgan

        Has anybody asked why “family planning” or “population reduction or control” is never mentioned? Overpopulation is the source of poverty, but not mentioned. Not PC? Can there be PC in free democracies?

    • William Glyndwr Morgan

      Specific aid such as given by Bill Gates is probably much more effective than government aid which tends to end up in the pockets of the local oligarchs.

  • Ken

    Alas, the biggest beneficiaries of foreign aid have been Swiss banks.

  • Henry Ko

    While democratic processes rely on majority opinion, this does not imply that today’s majority view will also be tomorrow’s majority view.

    • William Glyndwr Morgan

      Democracy does not imply that they (the majority) know what they are voting for.

  • Joseph Silveira Asamoah

    Africa does not need aid! I will tell you what Africa needs.I have been to numerous workshops and seminars organized by the IMF & World Bank and all have either brushed my simple question aside or simply refused to answer.For the love of God if there’s any representative of the world bank or IMF on this forum I want to ask one question.”Does the World Bank/ IMF support “industrialization” efforts in third world countries especially in Africa”? – A link to some resource facts will be nice.

  • John Hawkins Totnes

    “Poverty is … created by economic institutions that systematically
    block the incentives and opportunities of poor people to make things
    better for themselves, their neighbours and their country”.

    In a much more subtle way this is what is happening in our country. An example: right now a person on average income wishing to buy their own home is captured by poverty. A disproportonate amount of their income goes to pay for it and when interest rates go up they are crippled. And for what purpose? To allow our government to tell us the economy is growing by asset price rises. And there are other examples. This is bamboozlement.

  • Hippograd

    The important thing is to show that you CARE. David Cameron CARES. He is compassionate and he CARES. In this, he is the true heir to Blair. Thank you, Mr Blair. Thank you, Mr Cameron. Thank you, Africa, for being there so that we can CARE about you. And last but not least: Thank you, open borders, for the Africans we have in the United Kingdom. They bring a LOT of vibrancy. Just ask the family of Lee Rigby.

  • Sipu

    There is a fundamental truth that everybody blindly ignores. Sub-Saharan Africans are not intellectually equipped to compete in Western/Asian society. They really do lack the ability. They are hunter-gatherers. They do not create, they take what they find. I know I will be accused of racism, but that is the reality. I have lived all over the world but have spent most of my life in southern Africa. I know what I am talking about.

    • cellmaker

      Your thesis doesn’t hold with my experience. I’ve lived off and on in Africa for about 11 years and can say without question that Africans are just as smart and resourceful as any people I’ve met. So it would be best for you to rethink your “fundamental truth.”

      My experience also says that this intelligence and resourcefulness is tempered by a broad lack of education, an economic environment which makes it truly difficult for the people to excel within, and government institutions that tend to focus first on the political stability of whoever’s in power and second on whatever stated purpose they may have.

      It’s no wonder that much of Africa’s intelligence and resourcefulness is then bent toward working this extremely flawed system, in the process drawing resources away from truly productive activities. This often makes people’s actions look counterproductive and perhaps venal. But what you’re seeing is survival.

      I work in aid and am more than happy to acknowledge that much of the West’s contributions end up in the hands of a relative few. But it’s also important to understand that, with a few exceptions like Liberia, aid doesn’t make up that much of any of these economies (and outside of Scandinavia costs the donor economies next to nothing, despite what media outlets would have you think).

      Aid on the development (not emergency) front is sort of a tiny aspirin dulling the pounding migraine caused by really bad economic and government hangovers. Fortunately, democracy is now taking hold across almost all of sub-Saharan Africa, and with it will come a slow — then fast — move from poverty to relative prosperity as investment catches up with, then leaves aid in the dust.

      When Africans can put their intelligence to work more productively, there will be an explosion of economic activity (and a massive slowing of the birth rate, by the way).

      The next great investments are probably already being hatched here, so stop complaining about stupid Africans and call your broker.

  • jnk9

    We should invest some of our aid budget on the stock exchanges of poor countries that promote what David Cameron calls the “golden thread” – on the understanding that the capital gains will be used to finance our aid programme in the future.

  • Ocean Sprayz

    One of the cases for the individualist conception is that its derived political systems minimize to “least harm” that which evil men can do.

  • seanbrysondotcom

    Save The Children ! No Child Born To Die !

  • Jack92

    Truly disgusted with some of the comments on here…

  • Partyforever

    You know nothing about apartheid. Google UN Human Development Index South Africa 1994 and then check it in 2013. I know it from memory, 0.73 during apartheid vs. 0.64 today.

    89% of the black population couldn’t read or write in 1955. 93% could read in 1990. The highest rate in Africa.

    That’s within a mere 35 years. Unemployment 3%, the Rand traded at R0.73 per US dollar in 1973. And South Africa had the world’s 15th largest economy. 9th largest stock exchange.

    There’s a million facts we can draw from the economic database. Nelson Mandela became a lawyer with a degree in LAW.
    So just on that fact alone, it shows your comment about the “colour bar” is incorrect – apartheid “didn’t ban black people from professional jobs” – a mistake in your data. Or you lie. Or you thumbsuck. Or whatever.

    I get it, you’re a liberal. Just give everyone a chance and wham. Economic growth.
    Perhaps you should check the economic record of the dictator Park Chung-hee of South Korea. 7% real GDP growth a year for more than a decade saw the rise of Daewoo, Samsung and Huandai, LG. Koreans had an income of $200 a year in 1950.

    Have you checked the economic growth under apartheid?

    Google overall gross domestic product, and overall economic growth in the 1960s rivaled that of Japan–averaging 5.9 percent per year.

    The 2nd fastest economic growth in the world, rivalling that of Japan that was experiencing an electronic revolution at the time!

    Give those Afrikaners some credit. Goverment spending made up 10% of the overall economy. It was very free market. Compare those stats with the UK and US, Russia, whoever at the time. That was before terrorists took our country.

  • Dick Chunary

    I’ve found this to be a useful lamp of liberty holding timeless truths for today’s course of human events: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0094KY878

  • Bestuv Burke

    Here we find five quick facts to slice through the science-fiction that is today’s man-made global warming: http://bit.ly/1ojEViv

  • Howard

    But apartheid ended and Mandela took charge, and there have only been black african leaders since. So why are the black africans still the most impoverished? They have one of the highest murder rates worldwide among them, and their education system and overall economy-health hasn’t improved at all since gaining political independence. Ghettos are still everywhere. So, lifting apartheid institutions didn’t really change anything but the colour of the person who sat in the chair.

  • ryanforpovery

    Interesting article about foreign aid ! What we could
    do to help people living in extreme poverty ? The Borgen Project is
    a great national advocacy campaign that aims to reduce poverty through congress
    and spreading the word. Pass it on! // borgenproject.org

  • Vincent Vega

    Obama lied continuously about the anticipated effects of the 2013 sequester: http://youtu.be/YWElzVoOhpQ?t=2m47s

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  • Jcat Board

    Do any of the Billionaires/Millionaires living in Kenya
    (Africa) (by which I mean mainly the Corrupt Ministers/Politicians etc.) ever
    fund any of the Kenyan (African) projects for the wellbeing of their citizens
    or do they always just rely on foreign aid????? IMHO most likely they ALWAYS
    rely on foreign aid because then they can plunder a cut from the aid to fill-up
    their off shore bank accounts…..

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  • kathymitro

    Very on point. A well done article that opens ones eye to what can be done to truly start to eradicate poverty.

    • Harryagain

      The poor will always be with us.
      As someone said.
      There is no cure for the African disease.
      It’s a black hole into which resources could be endlessly poured and have no effect whatever.
      They need to sort out their own problems.
      We have problems at home,for some reason always ignored by the do-gooders

      • kathymitro

        Thank you for your kind appellation of do-gooder. It is truly what we need more of in this world.By basing your assumption that I am ignoring the problems at home I feel you are mistaken. My decisions to do good are always based on what is the kindest action and are not cut off by invisibly drawn borders designating who is worthy of kindness.My hunger relief at home is of utmost importance to me and if you would like to help at home please feel free to check out how you can make a difference at home if this is nearer to your heart. Many people in the US twist and turn in hunger

        Thank you for taking the time to comment.

        • Harryagain

          What do-gooders get up to is largely counter productive.
          It creates a dependency culture when people should be getting off their arses.
          It encourages corruption and idleness.
          Much treasure is spent on administration and big CEO salaries and never gets near the intended recipients.
          Charity is a big business these days, it’s prime purpose is to further the careers of a few managers.

          Fair trade is also a big fiddle..

          • kathymitro

            what is your solution?

          • Harryagain

            There is none.
            Anything you do will just make matters worse by upsetting the natural order of events.
            Leave them alone, things will sort themselves out.

            You go in and take the place over and run it for them.
            Can’t see that happening though it would be best for them.

          • kathymitro

            Okay using this logic we should just leave alone those on the street after a fire destroys their neighborhood? After all fires are the natural order of things. Man is here to help his brother and it is far better to error in the wrong kind of help than in no help at all. People are hungry here.
            In Africa they lay down on the street and starve to death. To not put out a hand to help what kind of world would that be? Not one I would want to live in.

          • Harryagain

            To imagine that you can solve the problems of Afica is sheer arrogance.
            The root problem is one word:- Overpopulation.
            It has ever been thus in Africa. It’s down to their ingrained culture. They are not do-gooders by their very nature and will step over a dying person if (s)he’s not their family or tribe.
            A truely evil people when you think..
            It was not known as the dark continent for nothing.

            We are not a tribal country in the UK and help one another. (Though some would like to bring back tribalism for their own dark ends (eg,Nicola Sturgeon)

            You need to get wised up as to the reality.
            There’s plenty needs doing in this country.if you need to feed your puffed up ego and the need to demonstrate your superiority over the people you “help”.

            These people who leap in to help Syrians by offering accommodation in their homes. are another case in point. They are not doing it to be “nice”. It is to feed their own egos.and to be able to posture in public.
            A bit like the Pharisees praying in the temple if you are a bible nut.

            There are plenty of drunks living rough need help in the UK.
            Why don’t they take a couple of these into their homes?
            I expect you can think of many reasons
            Well you are exactly the same.

            And furthermore, you have not considered the consequences/futility of your meddling.

            All do-gooding is ultimately counterproductive in these alien cultures. They are not like us and don’t think like us. And, mostly, they hate/despise us.
            If you took time out to talk to them, you would perhaps come to understand this instead of living on cloud nine amongst a fog of misconceptions.

            And I have traveled in Africa.

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          • Gilbert White

            These people do not even understand the meaning of do gooder. Dickens was one of the first to write about these sorts of people?

          • kathymitro

            Sorts of people 🙂

          • Rich Garriques

            are you implying that Africans are naturally poor? what’s happened in Africa is a result of European rule by imperialism and colonist behaviour. if Europeans were banned from Africa and not allowed to do any trade there the economy will grow there. it is European institutions keeping people poor.

          • Harryagain

            Naturally savage, corrupt and stupid.
            British colonies by and large left them in good order. Certainly better then when colonists arrived.
            Now they are reverting back to their previous existence.
            Have you never been there, immediately post colonial rule and then later?
            I have.
            Definitely gone downhill.

            Get your head out of your are se.
            Only brain dead socialists ignore the facts.

          • Mr_Twister

            Build them coal fired power stations…. LOTS of them, give them cheap energy and allow them to industrialise.

          • kathymitro

            All good ideas.

          • kathymitro

            on second thought I think it is best to end this conversation and I will continue doing my good work in peace negativity begets negativity and it is best to avoid be it in friends media or reading material
            but I will leave with the comment did you actually read this article or did you skim it so you would catch enough so you might comment?
            This article espouses the futility of pouring money in and proposes other solutions. This solutions are what I believe are exactly on point

          • Harryagain

            A closed little mind?

  • Gilbert White

    The usual rubbish hand crafted with the help of a whitey do gooder.

  • MathMan

    During the last 50 years Sub-Saharan Africa has had $60 Billion in aid (source: The Economist) and has continued to go backwards. Anyone with direct experience of Africa and Africans will know why.

    • KingEric

      Surely the whole point of the article was that aid on it’s own doesn’t solve the problems, that it is the institutions within those countries that need to change to increase wealth for all. Therefore your assertion that aid hasn’t changed anything simply underlines the point the article is trying to make.

  • Harryagain

    The only way Africa could be fixed would be to re-colonise it.
    Can’t see that happening any time soon.
    Since independence, every African country has been regressing to it’s previous state of savagery. Even in North Africa of late.

    The brain dead do-gooders blame colonisation for destablising that wonderful African civilisation that existed pre the white man’s coming.
    You know, the one where they never invented the wheel.

    Best left alone. Keep our frontiers secure, we know what they’re like.
    See it on the TV all the time.

    • zarin

      Fine, leave them alone. But remember, this will include leaving THEIR resources, which “the white man” (in your words) are TAKING from them in the name of trade, which by the way are worth way more than what they are receiving in so called aid.
      we need to rethink how to define aid. on one hand you have people who are trying to make a difference but screwing up the situation more, albeit with a good intention. on the other you have idiotic hypocrites like yourself, who without knowing/understanding the complexity and the depth of the problems, will just yell out whatever nonsense they like — you my friend are part of the problem. so please, shut the fuck up.

      • Harryagain

        How do you conflate “taking from them” with trade?
        I don’t give a toss about their problems, they bring them on themselves by reason of widespread greed, corruption and tribalism but somehow we are expected to solve them.
        These problems seem to be innate ergo there is no solution.

        • zarin

          i think this will answer your question. Read this article.


          • Harryagain

            You’re one of these lefties that thinks money grows on trees and debts don’t have to be repaid?
            So they can borrow endless money (which is stolen by their leaders/governmet) and then can expect more?

          • zarin

            well that’s the point of this article, this cycle of borrowing endless money ISN’T helping, we need to find a better alternative.

            thank you for helping me prove my point.

          • Harryagain

            Your point fails.The problem is with the culture in Africa.
            The only solution would be to recolonise Africa.
            Which is not going to happen.
            So,there is no solution.
            They ware reverting to the state of savagery that existed before wh ite men came.

          • zarin

            how do you know they were in a state of savagery before white men came? the only sources you are basing these assumptions on are -newsflash- WRITTEN BY THE WHITE MAN, and hence is BIASED.

          • Harryagain

            There would be archeological evidence.
            Apart from a few stones piled up in Zimbabwe, there is none.
            I had a (great) uncle who was a missionary in Nigeria.
            Mid/late 19th century.
            The savagery was unbelievable when he arrived.
            Witchcraft, human sacrifice, disease. etc

          • zarin

            And you think slavery wasn’t savagery? Or what about the holocaust?
            You’re idea of the great western civilization is flawed. You defining what their lives should or should not be based on western values is the problem to our society.

          • Harryagain

            Ah. Moving the goal posts again?
            Slaves were rounded up by other Africans and sold to whoever would buy. Mostly Arabs.
            It was Arabs who raided the British isles for slaves too.
            The British government was the first to abolish slavery and sent it’s navy out to enforce it.
            There are plenty of countries where slavery is still practiced.
            Have a read up before you shoot your mouth off.
            Start here.


          • zarin

            Wonderful, scapegoating other cultures is always the way to go!

            Also, I love how you’re using wikipedia. naturally it is the most legit source, even tho literally anyone can add/edit stuff on it, but hey if it shifts the blame towards someone else, of course it’s legit! right?

            Finally, before you call Africa savagery and full of disease and all that, you might wanna take a look at this article which states how all human beings – the species I assume you are – originated from Africa. Yes that’s right, from Africa. I believe it was the Neanderthals – now extinct – who lived in Europe – but that’s irrelevant. The place you are calling savage and sick is where your ancestors came from, unless you are an ape. Actually that would explain a lot…


          • Harryagain

            You can verify the Wiki info. as accurate from other sources.
            Ah down to abuse when every false point and argument you brought up has been shot down.
            You are truely tthe product of a poor education.
            BTW. Neanderthals never went extinct, they interbred with modern humans.


            There no evidence they were less intelligent than humans today.

            OTOH There’s plenty of evidence that modern Africans are pretty thick.

          • zarin

            ahhahahahaa you crack me up. Of course you call me the product of poor education while you are spelling “truely” and “tthe”, although I’ll assume the second one is a typo. Anyway I’m not here to correct your grammar, as there are a bunch of other things in your mind that clearly need to be corrected.

            Unsurprisingly, you are wrong again, although SOME Neanderthals might have interbred with humans, the VAST MAJORITY went extinct.

            Read before yelling BS: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0003972

            And you think modern Africans are thick? Every single African person I’ve met has a higher IQ than you – no offence – in that they know not to make blatantly racist comments on public platforms. You’re just proving to the world what a narrow minded, ignorant person you are.

            Learn to learn from people. If you open your mind a bit and accept the fact that you are not better than others/there is no ultimately best race, you will see how stupid you sound and hopefully it’ll teach you a little humility.

            But alas, I don’t think there’s a point in telling someone like you that you’re wrong. I find it hilarious how you are saying all of my points have been shot down, where in fact EVERY SINGLE ARGUMENT you have made makes absolutely no sense – and is backed by wikipedia.

            Please continue spreading your bs to the world, and try to not yell at random black people you pass on the streets, okay?

          • Harryagain

            A well developed “victimhood” and entitlement attitude.
            I take it you’re one of them?
            Thinks the world owes you a living because of imaginary crimes in the past?

          • zarin

            How do you deduce that from what I’ve said?
            No the world doesn’t owe me anything except from what I deserve.
            And I certainly don’t deserve to be judged from what I am from my race, appearance, etc.

            And what I am is not relevant. See, you’re already sneering down at me because of your prejudice.

  • Cobbett

    Leave them to sort it out themselves.

  • Jaria1

    Its too much to impose a programme of austerity and spend £12billion on foreign aid. As all MPs support Foreign aid the voter doesnt get a say in the metter.
    I dont care how often Cameron and Osborn tell us how proud we should be they prove how little they care of what we think. The excuses for giving it are pathetic.

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    Indications are that more money is taken out of the African continent through trade agreements, company profits, raw materials and other arrangements than what is given as foreign aid. One can only question why much of the continent remains poor to this day.

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