Asking the Hard Questions

Damisa Moyo in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal wrote an article called “Why Foreign Aid Is Hurting Africa.” It’s a damning account of how “Money from rich countries has trapped many African nations in a cycle of corruption, slower economic growth and poverty,” and it’s one that should be read by anyone who donates to or participates in charitable organizations that work in Africa.

One sentence stands out for me: “No country has ever achieved economic success by depending on aid to the degree that many African countries do.”

The piece was particularly appropriate for board members at the last meeting as we discussed our malaria abatement program. Here’s Moyo’s example of how we could be hurting Africa. “Say there is a mosquito-net maker in small-town Africa. Say he employs 10 people who together manufacture 500 nets a week. Typically, these 10 employees support upward of 15 relatives each. A Western government-inspired program generously supplies the affected region with 100,000 free mosquito nets. This promptly puts the mosquito net manufacturer out of business, and now his 10 employees can no longer support their 150 dependents. In a couple of years, most of the donated nets will be torn and useless, but now there is no mosquito net maker to go to. They’ll have to get more aid. And African governments once again get to abdicate their responsibilities.”

So we are looking into buying nets from a local manufacturer instead of importing them. This story also informed our policy planning. As much as we want to give all we can to the members of our Village Hopecore family who request help, we have to remember that our goal is to assist villagers in creating sustainable businesses, businesses that will work without foreign aid. As some of our groups succeed in growing their businesses and paying back their loans, they will no longer need loans from Village Hopecore, but will get help with their expansion strategies from lenders such as Equity Bank, which specialize in small loans in Kenya.

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