Counting the Cost

The cost of aid

We ask why aid, instead of liberating people from despair, is leading to less growth, more poverty and spiraling debt.

In the past 50 years, rich countries have spent $2.3tn on development aid. But is this assistance really working?

The African continent alone has received $1tn during the same time frame. Despite this, the average GDP in countries in sub-Saharan Africa fell by 15 percent between 1980 and 2000.

This week Counting the Cost asks why aid – far from liberating people from poverty – is leading to less growth, more poverty and spiraling debt, forcing African countries to repay, on average, close to $20bn per year.

We speak to four experts who tell us what is behind this waste and how we might solve the problem.

We catch up with Emma Seery, the head of development finance and public services at Oxfam, and ask her if Oxfam’s efforts to combat the corruption of the global financial system will finally allow aid-giving organisations like hers to go beyond dealing with symptoms of an endemic economic problem.

Will Ruddick, an associate scholar at the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS), questions whether resource-rich countries like Kenya really need $300m per year in food aid. He explains how small communities are creating complementary currencies to make themselves more self-reliant and circumvent the rules of trade and aid imposed on them by richer countries.

Dr Nora Murad, founder of the Palestine-based Dalia Association, talks about the obstacles to sustainable growth in Palestine, where aid is needed because of the international community’s failure to drive a political solution to the 1948 war.

And Alan Duncan, Britain’s minister of state in the department for international development, defends traditional aid models and tells us why he thinks the British government should maintain its current spending levels.


Watch each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 2230; Saturday: 0930; Sunday: 0330; Monday: 1630. Click here for more Counting the Cost.

Follow Kamahl Santamaria @KamahlAJE and business editor Abid Ali @abidoliverali