Categories
International Relations Security Development Conflict

Local Aid Works Better in Somalia

World Food Programme trucks in Somalia
World Food Programme trucks in Somalia. Photo: UN World Food Programme/Peter Casier/flickr.

Somalia could fall into the same trap as Afghanistan and Iraq where massive influxes of aid create a short-term boom in the economy but don’t necessarily lay the groundwork for sustainable growth, said Aisha Ahmad, assistant professor of political science at the University of Toronto and chief operation officer of the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation, an internationally renowned organization in Somalia that has provided emergency relief to people throughout the civil war.

Ms. Ahmad said Mogadishu’s current stability is mostly due to the “green zone” established by the international community, and because aid sometimes doesn’t reach rural areas, desperate people are now drawn to the capital, “creating a number of new humanitarian and security concerns that we haven’t seen thus far.”

“Once you leave the green zone, the situation changes dramatically, and you’ll see a lot of the old militia coming out of the bush the minute you leave the capital city going into Afgooye corridor,” she said.

Categories
Government Foreign policy Development

Missing Pieces: China’s Challenges, Africa’s Mixed Picture, and More

By Isobel Coleman for Council on Foreign Relations.


An employee puts up a price tag after updating the price at a supermarket in Hefei, China, April 9, 2012 (Jianan Yu/Courtesy Reuters).

In this week’s installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow discusses stories on China and Africa, as well as a report on U.S. international engagement. Enjoy the reading.

Categories
Education Development

Soap? No, Thanks.

High-tech tools versus basic needs
High-tech tools versus basic needs

Education in developing countries is often a subject of controversy. But it can also be an example of absurdity.

Let’s take the example of technological development in Namibia.

Namibia, with 2 million inhabitants and a $5,000 a year per capita GDP, is one of the richest countries in Africa. It has also been politically stable since it gained independence from South Africa in the 1990s. Natural resources, uranium and diamonds among them, as well as tourism guarantee the country a comfortable income.

But the country is also benefiting from international aid.

The Polytechnic of Namibia, the leading technical university of the country, benefits from aid it gains from international foundations. Recently they received 30 spectrophotometers, for example. This tool is used to study the electromagnetic spectra of an object. A foundation answered to a request by the Polytechnic that wanted these tools to compete technologically with the best universities in the world. With one spectrophotometer costing approximately $5,000,  the donation amounted to $150,000.

This is a lot for a university where some professors don’t earn as much as one spectrophotometer costs during one year. And the ‘funny’ part of the story is that these tools are not used more than a few times a year.

While every chemistry students of the Polytechnic now has his or her own spectrometer, the university still lacks some basic supplies. It doesn’t have soap, for example, which is crucial when analyzing bacteria or working with chemistry products. It should be used daily in a laboratory. Last month, one international professor that was working there, had to ask the kitchen if she could borrow the soap to show the students how to clean their hands before analyzing bacteria with a microscope.

But what does this example tell us?

Categories
Development

Development Aid: Missing Its Mark?

More targeted development aid is needed, photo: Melissa Gray, flickr

Has traditional development aid helped alleviate – or further exacerbated – poverty? This week the ISN takes a closer look at the promises and pitfalls of development aid with particular attention to the benefits of targeting it more directly at the grassroots level.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Dr Gerard DeGroot discusses the limited ability of traditional development aid to alleviate poverty, concluding that small projects addressing basic human needs may have the biggest impact.
  • A Podcast interview with Fiona Ramsey about the big benefits of small microfinance loans for sustainable development.
  • Security Watch articles about the impact of development aid from Haiti to Georgia, Somalia and beyond.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including a recent Kiel Institute Working Paper assessing the value of performance-based aid as an alternative to the largely failed traditional approach.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as the International Policy Network’s paper on the impact of foreign aid – with Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Botswana cited as examples.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the Cambridge-based Collaborative for Development Action, an NGO committed to improving the effectiveness of international actors involved in supporting sustainable development.
Categories
Business and Finance Foreign policy

Haiti and the Meaning of Generosity

Haiti Earthquake: Who's Given What?
Haiti Earthquake: Who's Given What?

The Haiti earthquake has become the new measure of generosity.

The country’s big northern neighbours have earned much praise for their effort: The US has pledged $168 million to date, and Canada $131 million. The bronze medal goes to Spain, with ‘only’ $45 million, although the latest data from ReliefWeb indicates that Saudi Arabia has caught up.

But data journalist David McCandless puts things into perspective: Measured as a percentage of GDP, the most generous countries in the Haiti crisis have been… Guyana and Ghana! Canada and all Nordic countries make it to the top ten in this wealth-corrected ranking as well, but not Uncle Sam.

Beyond its primary purpose of disaster relief, the donation campaign has lifted Haiti out of the realm of forgotten poverty-stricken nations. This is a chance for the country, but I am worried about two potential pitfalls.