Here’s news: Africa needs more international financial aid.
During the recent G-8 summit, the world’s richest and most powerful nations vowed to deliver $60 billion to help Africans fight AIDS and starvation. It’s only the latest big promise to the Dark Continent.
Just three years ago these same leaders committed themselves to an equally ambitious -- an equally unachievable -- level of aid. “Several of the member governments simply are not going to meet their targets,” J. Stephen Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told The Washington Post. “The commitments were unrealistic with good intentions.”
Those words could be the epitaph for most foreign-aid programs. In fact, for most federal programs in general. They’re launched with the best of intentions, but they’re not going to solve problems.
The world -- and our nation -- needs a better approach. Luckily, help seems to be on the way.
In his 2007 book, “Richistan,” Robert Frank -- wealth reporter for The Wall Street Journal -- details a new sort of philanthropy that might change charity for the better. Frank spends most of the book detailing how the other 1 half of one percent live. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s read F. Scott Fitzgerald that “the rich are different from you and me.”
They fly around on private jets, coast around on giant yachts and hack around on their own golf courses. Some, however, get bored with spending money on themselves. Frank writes about Philip Berber, the founder of A Glimmer of Hope. “Since 2001, Glimmer has spent more than $16 million in Ethiopia,” Frank writes. Most of that went to building wells (bringing clean water to 886,000 people) and opening schools (where 112,000 students are learning).
What makes Glimmer different is that Berber works to get the most bang for his megabucks. “He can deliver water,” Frank writes, “for $5.74 per person, or health care for $4.01 per person.” That’s about half of what traditional aid groups spend on similar projects.
Of course, Berber’s approach doesn’t sit well with the big NGOs that usually run projects in Africa. As Adam Hicks, a spokesman for the international aid agency CARE, told Frank, “You have to understand the world context in which Ethiopia exists, to understand deeply the food issues and exporting world.”
It doesn’t take much experience in Africa to know that people who live in a desert need wells, or that children without schools need classrooms, or that sick people need to see a doctor and get medicine. That’s just common sense. The problem is that -- while First World governments and NGOs spend money freely -- they don’t spend enough of it helping people.