Sunday, 21 November 2010

Does Aid Work?

Over the last 50 years, over $3trillion has been ploughed into Africa and its development. It remains the only continent to have become poorer in the last three decades. Based on this fact alone, it’d be easy to say ‘aid’ simply isn’t working.

We live in a culture dominated by theories that donating to Africa will help solve their problems and stop their plight. Western aid, given from a sense of pity, is very difficult to challenge. How can you fault someone who tries to help you, especially when our first experience of aid resulted in such a positive outcome (The Marshall Plan in 1945)? Unfortunately, when it comes to Africa, things are never as simplistic as they would be anywhere else – in fact, Zambian author Dambisa Moyo argues aid essentially disadvantages Africa, and with good reason too.

In her book ‘Dead Aid’ she essentially two major reasons aid in Africa doesn’t work.
Unlike other historically successful aid interventions like the Marshall Plan, aid in Africa will always be needed such is the extent of the problems, therefore its continually in need clearly making development unsustainable.

Perhaps most importantly is the fact aid money often doesn’t go into productive causes and consequently corrodes the incentives system in many African countries (Ethiopia and Uganda, for example). Aid is essentially "free money"; therefore, governments do not see the need to generate revenue by growing their economies. Why work with local entrepreneurs when you can always go cap-in-hand to beg the white man stemming sustainable development. As the old saying goes “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In this context, should you continue to feed African governments, they’ll continue to take, knowing they’ve got cod for dinner all week.

The aid-driven development model, as Ms. Moyo argues, has not and will not deliver economic growth. The money is simply misused by governments. Her solution? Stop donating. It seems like a shocking heartless response however it would teach many governments to become more self-reliant and use what money they have more sustainably. The major downfall of her solution is that the short-term consequences of this would simply be catastrophic. The effects would be that the less advantaged and most under privileged would certainly lose out and many deaths would occur across the whole of Africa.
Aid has created something of a vicious circle. Because governments simply assume there will be a continuous stream of aid trickling into their pockets, many chose to neglect developing and sustaining many social services – leaving charities to pick up the slack. Similarly to aid, this also can have a negative knock-on effect as governments won’t address this issues in the future a third party is attending them.

There are other solutions all of which have pros and cons. Donating to charities that directly do grass roots work in Africa is often a very productive use of funds, however, you often have to accept only a percentage of your money will go towards what you’ve donated to – and the rest might seep into the corrupts hands, the question is, is it worth accepting that so that someone disadvantaged might receive the majority of it? This again comes back to the ‘Dead Aid’’s solution to simple turn the tap to stop aid trickling into Africa. But then who really loses out?

A very complicated complex argument, which still has no flawed solution I’m sure you’ll agree!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Alive and Kicking

Sub-Sahara Africa is the poorest region in the world and was ravished by the HIV/AIDS virus. The only continent to have become poorer over the last three decades, Africa suffers from mass unemployment. 64% of Zambia’s 12 million population earn less than the equivalent of one US dollar a day – which in turn causes a whole series out various problems relating to social development. However, there is one organisation that is determined to offer its workers well above minimum wage in good working conditions. Alive & Kicking is a football (and netball and volleyball) production enterprise, offering disabled and HIV/AIDS infected workers the chance of decent income and an escape from their desperate situations. I came to find out about Alive and Kicking through the two Sport NGOs I’m working with out in Zambia. EduSport and Sport In Action both purchase their footballs from Alive and & Kicking. Our equipment cupboard at the house is packed to the rafters with their products. Each ball proudly displays their logo, a warning of the dangers of malaria and their real signature, the writing ‘Against child labour’ around the ball’s air supply. A massive fan of their ideals and interested to find out more, I managed to organise a meet with their Managing Director, Chad. We spoke for a while, about Alive and Kicking, and also about the IDEALS project I was proud to be apart of. Each stitcher has the aim of making 3 balls a day – which doesn’t sound a lot, but Alive and & Kicking balls are of the highest standard. Even in the terrains of the compounds the IDEALS students operate, the Alive & Kicking balls are hard wearing and do not fall apart – something more famous production company’s products could be accused of. I sat with Chris, one of the stitchers (pictured below). He told me about his average day at the stitching centre, located at ZamLeather, Zambia’s biggest producer of leather.

All of the stitchers seemed to enjoy their job and enjoyed a good standard of living, all of which is of course relevant to the country in which they live. It was a pleasant environment to be around and seemed nice enough to be working in. There was a good atmosphere and additional activities were encouraged by the management. The workers were very enthusiastic about their work football team, playing every Saturday morning in a league. There are reasons to remain optismistic – since their company’s birth, they’ve created over 150 jobs for Africans. Despite their American managing director, they stay true to their roots boosting of the fact their products are: made by Africans, in Africa for Africans on their company t-shirts. Through their work, they’ve targeted over 40,000 children with the intention of educating them about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. They’ve distributed over 300,000 footballs, netballs and volleyballs all together. You can order personalised footballs or organisations such as EduSport and Sport In Action can have a specific design for their required desires. Or you can simply buy or donate balls from their online shop. Friend of EduSport, a UK charity supporting the work of EduSport last week created a formal partnership with Alive & Kicking. Supporting their work and ordering ten footballs for their Go! Sisters world series to be held next year, Friend of EduSport are more than happy to give Alive & Kicking business.

Made in Africa, by Africa, for Africa – Alive and Kicking.

You can find out more about Alive and Kicking on Twitter (@ballsforafrica), Facebook ( or their website (