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Time to Rethink Donors Presence in Africa:Yet Another High Level Meeting on Aid:


 “In January 1947, U. S. President Harry Truman appointed George Marshall, the architect of victory during WWII, to be Secretary of State. In just a few months, State Department leadership under Marshall with expertise provided by George Kennan, William Clayton and others crafted the Marshall Plan concept, officially known as the European Recovery Program (ERP), the Marshall Plan was intended to rebuild the economies and spirits of Western Europe.”

That is how one document online opens the Chapter of what has become a chain of the most painful invention for Africa and most poor countries-Aid.

The Marshall Plan was itself a usurping of the role given initially to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, now famously known as The World Bank. The Bank was never supposed to become the Global behemoth that it is today, neither was its role seen as beyond helping the recovery of Europe. But with no job to do and a whole future ahead of it, the bank hopped on the success of the Marshall Plan, became a global “lender” for the poor countries, a monetary policy police for the world, and a poor man’s intellectual advisor in what set off an Aid industry that has become the greatest source of misery for much of the world, particularly Africa.

When Europe was forced out of much of the colonies it controlled, it  too adopted the Marshall Plan of its own, but with a small twist: Instead of using their resources to Aid the countries they had colonized for decades, Aid became a tool of political, social and economic control. It allowed former colonies to receive some little humanitarian and development assistance, but at a cost so high Africa and most of Southern America and parts of Asia are chained for life-quite literally. From the DRC, Ghana, CAR and nearly all of former French colonies where they prop up dictators, to Kenya and Sierra Leone and most of former British and German colonies where they use trade agreements to control their economies, to much of the poor countries where the same world bank set up to save Europe has become it’s tool for dictating these countries’ monetary and fiscal policies, and all the way to numerous development models that delink these poor countries from global trade, destroy their industries, corrupt their politics, render useless the social contract by systematically creating a chain of intermediaries who delink the citizens from their governments they have succeeded in generally make the bulk of their former colonies nothing more than suppliers of raw materials. Former French Colonies have a beautiful phrase for this relationship-‘la Francafrique.

And they should.

Not only are these former colonies required to deposit 50% of their annual revenues with the French Central Bank for their currencies to be allowed to trade, the Western Africa Monetary Union has no power over their monetary policies!

Nearly seventy years later, we are still meeting to discuss how Aid is good for the poor and their governments, especially the Resource rich Africa. We discuss the development models that will one day lift Africa out of poverty and catapult it to some semblance of Europe. All the while Africa continues to bleed $192 Billion that these countries take out annually in the form of policies they have refused to even discuss. They no longer call themselves European governments or former colonizers they are Development Partners, Donors, loving people working day and night to save a continent they ravaged for over 100 years and only left when their political power was weakened by infighting and a global outcry.

And so once again they are coming to Africa to discuss Aid and Development Effectiveness.

Between November 29 and Dec 1 2016, over 1, 000  of these mainly OECD country Representatives as well as over 500 NGOs from around the world will gather in Nairobi to review progress made in achieving this European version of the Marshall Plan.  It’s a regular ritual that goes on with  a very predictable script; Here is how it will run, and believe me, this is the exact script for all these Development/Aid meetings:

Politicians from poor countries complain that they need more money but with greater control on how it should be used, despite knowing from the biannual AID Monitoring and Review Reports that this will never happen. Al the while citizens from these countries are never allowed to know what is being discussed under closed door sessions. In fact the bulk of the “real” discussions will never appear in any document. Poor governments who like the concept of little citizen accountability brought by Aid, and who profit most from what is taken out of Africa, will give speeches detailing how happy they are that they have “development partners” from Europe and North America. Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that  today make up 98% of the NGO Sector will complain about how they are not being recognized and given a prominent seat at the high table. As a ritual, one of them, often from ” the poorest region” will be given three minutes in the coveted opening plenary to ” challenge” the Donors and ” recipient governments. They will lament how they are not getting enough support to hold poor governments accountable and how Aid is being wasted by corrupt governments-Never mind that giving to corrupt regimes is in many cases part of the strategy. There will be a call to increase funding to the SIGs as a sector and support the work on helping the “poorest of the poor”. A few SIGs may complain that Aid needs to be increased to conform to some 50 year old promise of 0.7% of Rich countries’ income . The Development Partners will speak very highly of their commitment to the poor in Africa and elsewhere. Most likely they will use their own calculations of Aid that takes into account subsidies and loans given at below 7% (despite the fact that market rates in Europe is often less than 4%). So expect an Aid figure of $ 130 billion or more!. They will then say something about how they are doing their best to increase Aid and Development support to the poorest of the poor, and then promise to look into their policies that hinder effective Aid .This time they are going to launch a new way of measuring Aid-TOSSD. TOSSD makes donors look great in that it now counts anything in the form of resources going out of their countries as Aid-whether its money given as subsidies to their companies or resources used out in the sea to keep refugees at bay. It’s all part of a race to reach the 0.7% target.

Some Declaration, often agreed upon months ahead, will be read out at the end of the meeting and a thunderous applause at the closing ceremony.

If there is time there may be some cocktail for the honored guests. Then its off to another Aid and Development Forum, and believe me, they are many, very expensive and specifically” high-profile” to appeal to the egos of those among us who like the image that comes with it!

If you expect any serious discussions on the real reasons for Africa’s poverty, you will grow grey hair while waiting.

It’s a script that has gone on for so long you can recite it with eyes closed.

And all the time the bulk of even the little that donors give to Africa- $30 bllion annually(or $130 billion if you use their calculator), goes back to the very countries that give it. The world was “shocked” when it was revealed during the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul that 98% of Donor funding remains with International NGOs and European Organizations, and Organizations in the frontline have to battle it out through Requests for Proposals and other competitions to access the remaining 2%.

Real Aid Reports, a bi-annual ActionAid Report that is now out of circulation, systematically revealed the tactics used by Donors to make sure up to 92% of Aid goes back to either their countries or their citizens. John Perkins had already told us way back in 2004 about these tactics in relation to the World Bank. What Real Aid did over a six year period was to show just how deep this strategy was entrenched within Donor countries.

And now Poverty Inc, an Award Winning Documentary, has put ink to video and captured the Aid industry in color.

And don’t think it will come to an end soon.

In 2015, the poor countries came closest to altering the script by pointing out the true intentions of the Development Partners. They relied on the Africa Union Mbeki Report on Illicit Financial Flows, and other Reports from organizations such as Global Witness and War on Want. From these reports and analysis these countries, under the umbrella of G77,were able to demonstrate that Trade and Tax Policies imposed by these Partners, not less Aid, was in fact the main cause of their poverty. They rallied behind a tax body that would be under the UN and not under the leadership of the Development Partners as is currently the case. It was the third time they were making this spirited attempt to get out of the yoke of Aid and into the freedom that comes with benefitting from their own resources. And for the third time the proposal was not just shut down, but many of the poor governments were intimidated into silence. The few that were too poor and manipulable were blackmailed into being part of the Addis Tax Initiative, a body led by the world’s largest tax havens-including UK, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States. The over $192 billion that Africa would have gained was traded for a morsel of bread-quite literally-with a $ 20 million financial assistance for capacity building on Domestic Resource Mobilization!

And so as another High Level Meeting on Aid opens up in Africa, the tragedy continues.

Do not expect any discussions on Trade and Tax, and tax havens and corporate policies that kill local industries. Do not expect discussions on a flawed model of electoral democracy promoted to perpertuste the concept thst Africa can’t govern itself and has corrupt leaders. Or about the many NGOs, mainly from Europe or modelled on European systems, and who speak ” on behalf of the poor” and occuppy literally any policy space available for citizens to relate with their givernments?Or any discussions on how Aid industry takes away Africa’s best brains from Government and local business to work in the Development Sector. No. Those discussions are in closed sessions of the WTO and the OECD Tax body and the World Bank Meetings-all of them led and chaired by these Donors.

What can citizens of the poor countries do?

Not much, you may think, considering they are never told what agreements are signed on their behalf. Surprisingly, Donor citizens and Parliaments are regularly ” educated” on the great benefits of helping the poor out of their taxes. But when they get here we see them signing agreements we know nothing about, and committing such large sums we should have been out of poverty after a decade. But 53 years on, 370 more people in Africa are in what is called “absolute poverty.”

As one citizen put it recently ” if after 50 years a person who promised to help you is still giving you handouts, you are the one who is foolish, because they must be getting more out of your poverty to stay that long.

The citizens are beginning to do something, nevertheless.

On 29th November 2016 citizens did what their governments and NGOs have never dared to try. They Openly brought the Aid dialogue to the Public, complete with a first ever Public Screening of Poverty Inc in Africa. Bunge La Wananchi (The Peoples Parliament)  gathered the public in the first ever public dialogue on value and relevance of Donors to Africa.  It was the first time in history of the dialogue on Aid and Donors that Citizens independently organized to Critique Donor driven development. And while they are always thought of as the drivers of Aid they all rejected the paternalism, the “white man saves Africa” syndrome and the lack of an honest and open discussions of what Donors get in in return for Aid,and the agreements with corrupt politicians that these donors refuse to make public.

The Dialogue, known as The Peoples High Level Meeting (Peoples HLM2)  was set to coincide with the opening of the High Level Meeting  (HLM2) that took place on the 30th November. Ironically since these meetings begun, no citizen other than NGO representatives have been invited or even informed of their focus and agenda- not by the host Governments, The NGOs or even the Donors, even though Aid is supposed to be about the poor!

The  Citizen Dialogue involved three sets of activities intended to develop specific recommendations to these Donors, NGOs and the host government-Kenya. The first was the presentation of the first ever Public Perception Survey on Aid and Donors, done in Kenya between October and November 2016.  The second was the first ever screening of Poverty Inc, an Award Winning Documentary that takes a critical look at Aid, Donors, NGOs and their relationship with the poor. Finally it involved an open citizen dialogue on what needs to be done to make Kenya and Africa move forward without the need for Aid

The extent of the destructive nature of Aid was never known until recently. The primary reason is that libraries and the internet is littered by publications extolling the virtues of Aid. The weaknesses are presented as being a failure of the recipients, not the givers. One then wonders why it continues to be given. These reports have one thing in common: they are primarily written by or funded by the Donors.

But recently  studies, among them the Thambo Mbeki Commission, have begun to quantify the loss to Africa of trade mispricing, resource control and deliberate tax policies set by these donors on behalf of their corporations. The reports are conservative, but they show that while Africa receives nearly $30 billion (Kshs 3 trillion) in actual Aid, the continent loses $192b (Kshs 192 Trillion) in policies by these very donors that ensure their companies pay little or no tax at all in Africa, policies that undermine Africa’s ability to feed and develop itself and makes a mockery of the much talked about Aid to Africa. Kenya, the host for this year’s Aid meeting,for example, loses an average of Kshs ($1 billion) 100 a year from just one such policy.

According to the Donor Group, The OECD and Development Assistance Committee (DAC)  Kenya receives $3.2 Billion (Kshs 320 Billion) in total Aid every year, or Kshs 7,200 per person. For a country where 20 million are classified by Donors as living on Kshs 36,000 per year, Donors assistance is 20% of money that poor people receive!

It’s the morality and factually of these that the citizen’s sought to discuss for the first time. Is this what these citizens would like of a country where Tax revenue stands at Kshs 2.7 Trillion ( $ 270 Billion) , and why has the government allowed it to be so? Should 20% of the livelihood of its citizens depend on donors? What does it mean for their Governance and the Social contract? And their Accountability to the Government? Their ability to trust and support their government? And does this mean Donors love this country that much? Or, as we are now learning, albeit after 53 years, are there other reasons for their support?  These were honest questions that have never been discussed with the Public

One day, yes, one day, the poor shall be free.