“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 the most painful invention in Africa and for 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 hoped on the success of the Marshall Plan and set of 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, allowing former colonies to receive some little humanitarian and development assistance while in return propping up dictators and using trade agreements, the same world bank set up to save it, and 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 and 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-Francafrique.
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 Dollars 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, 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 achievement this European version of the Marshall Plan. It’s a regular ritual that goes on with a very predictable script- These poor countries complain that they need more money but with greater control on how it should be used, poor governments who like the concept of little accountability brought by Aid will give speeches detailing how happy they are that they have development partners from Europe and North America, Special interest Groups that today make up 98% of the NGO Sector will complain how they are not getting enough support to hold poor governments accountable and how Aid is being wasted by corrupt governments. There will be a call to increase funding to the sector and support the work on helping the poor. A few 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, 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 .
Some Declaration will be read 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.
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- $30bllion annually, goes back to the very countries that give it. The world was “shocked” when it was revealed during the World Humanitarian Summit that 98% of Donor funding remains with International NGOs, and Organizations in the frontline have to battle it out through Requests for Proposals and other competitions to access the remaining 2%.
Real Aid, a bi-annual Action Aid report that is now out of circulation, reportedly showed 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 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 intensions 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
Trade and Tax Policies imposed by these Partners, asserted these countries under the umbrella of G77, was in fact the main cause of their poverty. They rallied behind a tax body that would be under the UN and under the leadership of the Development Partners. 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 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. 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.
On 29th November a few citizens will attempt to do what their governments and NGOs have never dared to try-Openly bring the Aid dialogue to the Public. Bunge La Wananchi (The Peoples Parliament) will gather to assess the value and relevance of Aid to Kenya and to Africa. It is the first time in history of the dialogue on Aid and Donors that Citizens are independently organizing to Critique Donor driven development
The Dialogue, known as The Peoples High Level Meeting (Peoples HLM2) is set to coincide with the opening of the High Level Meeting (HLM2) that will take 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 will involve three sets of activities intended to develop specific recommendations to Donors, NGOs and the host government-Kenya. The first is the presentation of the first ever Public Perception survey on Aid and Donors, done in Kenya between October and November 2016. The second will be 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 will involve an open citizen dialogue on what needs to be done to make Kenya and Africa move forward without the need for Aid
Several studies, among them the Thambo Mbeki Commission reported that while Africa receives nearly $30 billion (Kshs 3 trillion) in 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, for example, loses an average of Kshs 100 billion a year from just one such policy. In 2015 Poor governments for the first time rallied together to challenge the continued insistence that they need Aid and instead pointed to the vast sums taken by these Donors. Their demand for the creation of an independent tax body under the UN, (instead of the current one that is under the very donors who use tax laws to weaken the bargaining power of poor countries) was shot down by the Donors during the Finance for Development Meeting in Addis Ababa. Instead they insisted that what poor countries needed was more Aid! And to add salt to the wound, Donor countries that are home to the largest amount of money siphoned out of Africa-among them European Commission, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States,-offered a paltry $ 20 million (Kshs 2,1b) for some capacity building on Tax issues to selected poor countries (among them Kenya) as a way of buying their support to kill the debate on creation of the Tax body.
SO WHAT FOR KENYA:
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 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! Is this what we would like of our country, and why has our government allowed it to be so? Should 20% of the livelihood of our citizens depend on donors? What does it mean for our Governance? Our Accountability to the Government? Our own ability to trust and support our government? And does this mean Donors love this country that much? Or are there other reasons for their support? It is important that citizens gather and honestly discuss these questions.
One day, yes, one day, the poor shall be free.