Foreign Aid – It no dey work (Part II)


Often when people give aid to charity, they feel great!(1) They feel that they are doing well in the world and helping out those who are in need of help. In the first installment, I argued that giving aid actually hurts the receiver. It does so by b

reeding laziness, dependence, and civil unrest ( Dambisa Moyo, who has been called the “Anti-Bono,” and one of Time’s 100 most influential people, wrote a book titled ‘Dead Aid’ that argues foreign aid perpetuates the cycle of poverty and hinders economic growth in Africa. Her points are on target and I encourage people interested in economic reform and improving the continent of Africa to read the book or at least skim through it.

The white man's burden - The Journal, Detroit, 1923.
The white man's burden - The Journal, Detroit, 1923.

Nevertheless, the purpose of this second installment is a focus on what aid does to the giver. By continuously giving, the giver adopts a “White Man’s Burden” outlook on life. In that, the rich have a moral duty and obligation to help “the poor” “better” themselves whether the poor want the help or not. “The White Man’s Burden” is a poem written by the English poet Ruyard Kipling, which became symbolic of European racism and western domination where white people felt obligated to rule over, provide for, and dictate practices to those countries that are not white. This theory is synonymous with colonialism and in a sense synonymous with foreign aid. History has shown that colonialism did not necessarily help either party. It led to more civil unrest in the colonies and I argue it leads to a sense of entitlement and a superiority complex among the colonists. In the end, the European countries relinquished their despotic rule, but they have not relinquished their sense of entitlement. They may have loosed the noose, but they have not untied it. Instead, foreign aid is the modern equivalent of colonialism.

Now you ask, is a sense of superiority such a bad thing? It’s bad when it’s false and someone can easily dispel the truth. It’s bad when all your actions and how you treat others is viewed as being dominant and dismissive to those less fortunate. It’s bad when you become aware later on that you are not so fortunate. It’s bad when you are Cain and you become “your brother’s keeper.” And we all know what happened to Cain…

Another problem that this brings is a country that thinks its superior often believes that it can make its own rules with regard to humanitarian initiatives. However, we need to ask: who has the responsibility to protect whom? Therefore, what about the United States? If they are always protecting, who will protect them? If the United States had a “humanitarian” problem where over 25 million are uninsured and cannot afford basic access to care, would someone intervene? Would that be considered a humanitarian crisis? What if there was a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina where hundreds of thousands of people were displaced and the government was slow to act accordingly and where people died needlessly? Isn’t that a humanitarian crisis? What stopped other nations from intervening or sending stern warnings or threatening an embargo?
Who knows—maybe an African country will undoubtedly help out those that were helping them. As Dambisa Moyo states, “the continual portrayal of Africa as a source of war, disease, corruption, and poverty only causes Western counties to overlook the innovation, entrepreneurship, and opportunity that exists” in Africa. Just look at China and India—they were once considered poor and in need of aid, and now—they are superpowers that have most Western countries shaking in fear.
So, to all “givers,” please be mindful that unsolicited aid may actually hurt you in the process too. You may turn up as Cain…

1. Granted, some people give aid to get a tax break—so part of that wonderful feeling could be due to unforeseen potential of saving money.