If all the international debt Africa owes were cancelled today and if aid trebled instantly, would there be an immediate positive impact on the continent’s developmental aspirations in general, and would poverty be reduced significantly in particular?
To what extent are aid levels important in finding a solution to Africa’s economic and social malaise? How much evidence exists that shows the correlation between significant aid flows and improvements in economic and social welfare in recipient countries? Do institutions matter and to what extent does the policy environment influence the degree to which aid can improve conditions in the recipient countries? Does the mode in which aid is transferred to sub Saharan Africa matter and what issues need to be attended to in the current aid architecture to address the seemingly growing, cruel realisation in the average African country that, in spite of aid, the prospects of attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 are gradually diminishing?
The above questions are particularly pertinent in the light of increasing calls from a host of sources, including The Global Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals, for increasing aid flows to developing countries. I focus here on experiences from Zambia, one of the poorest countries in Africa where, despite significant aid volumes, poverty levels are worsening, with life expectancy having declined to a record low of around 37 years. On the basis of the Zambian experience, some broad conclusions are made regarding what needs to be done both in Africa and among the continent’s donors.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 36.3 (2005) Implications of a Major Increase in Aid to Africa: The Case of Zambia