foreign aidAs the COVID-19 pandemic spread over the world, so did foreign aid in many forms. Countries were sending masks, money, equipment and even healthcare professionals. Despite suffering from the effects of the pandemic themselves, China, Taiwan and South Korea all contributed to providing 16 countries around the world, including in Europe and Asia.  Even the U.S. became among those who were aid recipients when a shipment of masks and equipment from Russia arrived in April 2020. Perhaps most notably, Italy received foreign assistance from the U.S., China, Cuba and Russia among other countries.

Concerns About Aid Effectiveness

A common misconception regarding aid is that developed countries rarely benefit from foreign aid. Studies have shown that most Americans think the U.S. spends too much on foreign aid. Moreover, many aid opponents argue that aid is ineffective, costly and creates dependence.

Even Africans, who receive 20% of U.S. aid, have raised concerns about aid effectiveness. In 2002, Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, said “I’ve never seen a country develop itself through aid or credit. Countries that have developed—in Europe, America, Japan, Asian countries like Taiwan, Korea and Singapore—have all believed in free markets. There is no mystery there. Africa took the wrong road after independence.”

Foreign Aid to Developed Countries

The pandemic has shown that strong relations and aid are necessary for countries to overcome economic and healthcare challenges. Foreign aid has a complicated history, but many developed countries were recipients of aid in the past and still benefit from it in many ways.

Italy received around $240 billion in aid from the E.U. during the pandemic. If a similar aid package was given to Sub-Saharan Africa, it could provide primary healthcare to every African. If used to relieve food insecurity, $240 billion could end world hunger by 2030. That is not to say that foreign aid to developing countries should come at the expense of the recovery of developed countries. But contextualizing the funding helps demonstrate what foreign aid could do if distributed equally.

During the destruction of Notre Dame in Paris, France received $950 million in total from donations globally. The White House also pledged to help rebuild France, a year after announcing a reduction to the foreign aid budget. When it comes to aid, the question is not whether to provide it or not—it is about who to provide it to.

Foreign Aid to Developing Countries

Contrary to popular belief, the developing world does not receive nearly enough aid. The average Sub-Saharan African country receives less than $1 billion in aid annually. Following the Ebola outbreak in 2013 – a crisis that is most notably remembered for U.S. involvement – the WHO received around $460 million to help affected West African countries. The World Bank estimated that the outbreak cost $2.2 billion for these countries.

As African and Latin American countries see their first huge waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is now crucial that the U.S. and other countries continue to increase their foreign aid budget to help these nations recover. In addition to the pandemic, most developing countries are dealing with food insecurity as well as continuing political and civil unrest. Although aid alone will not resolve all these issues, it can alleviate the impact of the crisis. By being aid recipients themselves, Western and European countries can understand the importance of foreign assistance and take the necessary steps to help those in need.

– Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

poverty in dakar
On a hill overlooking the Senegalese capital of Dakar stand a bronze man, woman and child. The statue, called the “African Renaissance Monument” was commissioned by then-President Abdoulaye Wade in 2006 both as a potential tourist destination and as a symbol of liberty and learning.

It was controversial. Members of the rather conservative community found it at best unrepresentative of their culture, at worst, a violation of the Muslim restrictions on depicting the human form. Many considered it a complete waste of money. The monument cost $27 million, a sum sorely needed in Dakar’s city streets.

As the capital, Dakar is one of Senegal’s richer cities. It houses the National Assembly of Senegal, as well as the Presidential Palace. It is a center for West African financial institutions and NGOs. Half of its residents have never experienced poverty, but the third of Dakar’s population living in chronic poverty is concentrated in the slums.

Families in the city are relatively large. A World Bank survey of nearly 2,000 households determined an average household size of 9.6.

Though slum conditions could never be called ‘good,’ Dakar’s poorer areas are relatively so.

Most residents, over 90 percent, live in homes with permanent walls built of brick, stone or concrete. The majority of people own their houses and about 76 percent of people have access to running water and electricity.

Garbage and sewage disposal services are available for most residents, and access to telecommunications has improved greatly over the past years. Now as many as half of the households in Dakar’s slums have a mobile phone.

The fact that there is so little difference in the living condition’s of the slum’s poor and non-poor is an amazing accomplishment. But the differences that remain are crippling to many.

There are very few roads and minimal public transportation in Dakar. Less than half of the people there report feeling safe.

According to the World Bank report, six percent of the labor force is unemployed. This would be remarkable if more than eight percent of adults in Dakar were regularly employed. Small businesses are the greatest source of income for many who live in Dakar, a reported quarter of whom report running microenterprises.

A strong correlation exists between poverty in Dakar and a lack of education. While over half of people have access to public education, only one third complete elementary schooling and very few finish a secondary education. In Senegal, 84 percent of people living in chronic poverty have not had schooling. Education may be the key to their advancement.

Olivia Kostreva

Sources: NPR, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, The Guardian