Foreign aid; development assistance; foreign investment; these terms are now gaining another synonym: rogue aid. In an excerpt from the Foreign Policy Blog, rouge aiders are defined as such, “Because their goal is not to help other countries develop. Rather, they are motivated by a desire to further their own national interests, advance an ideological agenda, or sometimes line their own pockets. Rogue aid providers couldn’t care less about the long-term well-being of the population of the countries they ‘aid’.”
China is now the largest rogue aid competitor. The author of the blog entry says, “My friend was visibly shaken. He had just learned that he had lost one of his clients to Chinese competitors. ‘It’s amazing,” he told me. “The Chinese have completely priced us out of the market. We can’t compete with what they are able to offer’.” China can outbid the World Bank in aid lending power! What does this say for the future of the aid community? What does this say for the future of development? When economically powerful, wealthy, nondemocratic countries can circumvent the aid policies of the established lending institutions what can we really expect for development and aid programs? China can outbid the World Bank for a railroad project in Nigeria and sets no stipulation for combatting corruption, it can sign environmentally harmful agreements, it can provide funding without regard to the transparency of governments.
The Foreign Policy article gives three simple answers as to why China and other countries are stepping up their aid game. “[…] money, access to raw materials, and international politics.” These countries are not so concerned to create development or provide aid and help as many people as they can. There are obvious underlying motives to China’s upswing in development aid. This is not to say that China is the first to use rouge aid as a international relations tool. The United States and the Soviet Union used rogue aid to gain the allegiance of dictators. Our world is not in the position now to allow such initiatives to continue. The World Bank and other large aid agencies are monitored closely by watchdog groups, but these ‘rogue’ countries can lend and corrupt and ignore as much as they want.
The greatest threat that I see, and which I wrote about in an earlier post, is the obvious – China is set on getting all that it can from Africa. China has a great lust for Africa’s resources and their thirst is becoming unquenchable. Will Africa be drained and left with people living without basic infrastructure, left empty handed, left to die in ‘under-development.’ There is a quote from the FP article that sums up my thoughts, “Worse, they are effectively pricing responsible and well-meaning aid organizations out of the market in the very places where they are needed most. If they continue to succeed in pushing their alternative development model, they will succeed in underwriting a world that is more corrupt, chaotic, and authoritarian. That is in no one’s interests, except the rogues.”
This first story takes me back six years when I first became involved in basic healthcare activism for Africa. This story comes from my mother’s first trip to Uganda in 2001. My family became very good friends with Fr. Joseph from Uganda in the summer of 2000. He dealt with many medical issues in his traveling from village to village fulfilling his priestly duties, but he did not have any medical background. He asked my mother, who is a registered nurse, medical questions when he was here and sometimes called from Uganda to ask the best medical procedure or prognosis. She had found it very difficult since we had such a limited knowledge of what conditions were like in Uganda. So, that following summer my mother made the journey across the ocean to see the medical situation first hand. While she was there the realities were painfully obvious. Fr. Joseph owned a donated Toyota pick-up truck and while my mom was there she traveled around with him on his day to day work. An important note to make is that the pick-up truck doubled as the area ambulance. On one particular day, at a village stop to give mass, a pregnant mother needed transportation to the hospital because there were some complications. The nearest health clinic was seven hours away on the red, dusty, hole ridden ‘roads’. I can only imagine the ride in the back of a pick-up truck, dust thrown about, bouncing along so that a child may have a better chance. En route the pregnant mother went into labor. Still hours from the hospital the mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl and then died. They decided to name the baby after my mother – Baby Elizabeth. A family from the village adopted baby Elizabeth and she seemed to have a good chance in the world. Later the next year we were told that baby Eilzabeth had died. She had contracted malaria and since she lived in such a remote village, she and her family had no access to the $1- $2 medication that could have saved her life. If the access had been there baby Elizabeth might have lived to her fifth birthday, a rare occurance in many African communities due to poverty and disease.
Malaria is a parasite that is carried from human to human by mosquito. Malaria is a very preventable disease, yet kills over a million people each year. Over 90% of malaria deaths occuring in Africa making it Africa’s leading cause of death for children under five. Just recently President George W. Bush has said eight more African countries have joined a $1.2 billion US program to fight malaria. The five-year program works to provide funds to limit malaria’s spread by using insecticides and anti-mosquito bed nets, and also to provide drugs to people already infected. The renewed enthusism for the program has brought the World Bank and billionaire philanthropist, Bill Gates on board. Also on the scene are recent scientific advances, such as progress towards a vaccine, which prove to offer great hope to defeating one of the world’s great killers. A new treatment developed by British scientists collaborating with Kenyan experts is based on a technique for fluid replacement for children ill with malaria. The problem is that intensive care methods, only available at pediatric units in developed countries, is needed to treat infected children.
It is estimated that through partnerships working in Uganda, Tanzania, and Angola – US taxpayers already have helped approximately 6 million people to treat and prevent malaria. There are great hopes for the future prevention and defeat of malaria, but it requires the continued support of people in the developed world. US taxpayers need to push the Bush administration and future adminstrations to remain dedicated to the mission of saving lives affected by preventable disease. President Bush also announced at the Washington Summit on Malaria that the US Volunteers for Prosperity program will be expanded to recruit skilled US volunteers, doctors, and nurses to travel to at-risk countries to train local health care workers. The Gates Foundation has also expanded the number of projects it funds to research new malaria treatments. Likewise, there is a large private sector effort, such as, Nothing But Nets and the Acumen Fund, among others. Check out the blog of an Acumen Fellow working with a mosquito net facotry in Tanzania. There are so many opportunites to donate, to get involved, to volunteer, and to save a life. Check out some of the links posted and make a difference today!