Dear AFRIK-IT Colleagues,
On the question of "aid and what is used for', the contributions to the
list on the subject are raising ...more and yet more interesting questions.
Last week's contributions on the subject was dominated by the now famous
'exploitation of 'our' continent' debate with informative accounts on 'what
the aid is used for' from Alan of South Africa, Justin of Lesotho, Valerie
of Canada and so on. This week's contribution by Cedric of Jamaica on
'Dynamics of Aid' and that by Robert of USA are also worth noting. There
are two groups (schools of thought) emerging:
One group asked: Why talk about Aid at all?....Does this have any relevance
to the issue of IT in Africa?. The other group replied: ..Yes it does. ....
Colleagues like Menghestab of UK, Justin of Lesotho among others pointed
out (no point kidding ourselves)... Africa IT is Aid-driven.
There are still others like Ducan of South Africa and Paulo of Angola who
wants us to go straight to addressing key issues like.........
High import duties on computer equipment
Undeveloped communications infrastructures
Limited resources/old but functional equipment
Some say not so quick....we need to sort out this Aid business and see how
it contributes to or constraints IT development in Africa.......The debate
is on-going. Here is my contribution.......
The Aid (and Africa IT) debate (so far) makes me think we need to
distinguish between: 'Type of Aid' and 'What used for'. Here we go:
Type of Aid:
T1: Loans (hard/soft), Lines of Credit etc.
T2: Grants, Gifts etc.
What Used For:
U1: Consultancy Fees
U2: Equipment, and/or Training, Skill Development/Skill Transfer..
Lets look at some possible combinations
1. (T1,U1): With this combination, the aid is ( for example) in the form of
a loan (which must be paid back with or without interest by the receiving
country) and is used to pay for consultancy fees. This, some colleagues
pointed out is a raw deal (from the point out view of the receiving
country) especially in cases where:
- major part of the loan is used to pay the salaries of nationals from the
donor country and even more serious (as Alan of South Africa and others
pointed out), if there are local experts who can do the job.
- the output of the consultancy work did not lead to any tangible
(measurable) benefits to the receiving country.
2. (T2,U1): With this combination, a grant (free perhaps) is used to pay
for the consultancy fees. On the surface there is no problem here. Some may
say.. BUT.. there is a problem if consultants from the donor country are
used instead of using qualified expertise from the receiving country. Some
may even argue that this is even more problematic if the receiving country
do not get any tangible benefits from the whole exercise. Perhaps a point
made by Valerie of Canada need taking note of in this regards.. she wrote:
>Aid is not given because we're altruistic. Not at all. The donor expects
>valuable returns on the "investment". That's what aid really is.
3. (T1,U2): In this case the loan is used for procuring (for example) some
equipment for the receiving country, and perhaps to pay for some training
and/or facilitate some skill transfer. Some may say, why not? ..the
receiving country is paying for it... a straight forward business
transaction (no AID involve). A WIN-WIN combination?.... Some may say, not
all that rosy...the receiving country in some of these transactions is
forced to buy the equipment from vendors in the donor country and they will
insist on bringing their people down to do the training.. a service which
the receiving country in some cases have to pay for.... local experts are
bypassed....not good enough.
4. (T2,U2): With this combination, a grant (for example) from the donor
country is used to purchase say computer equipment and/or provide training
etc. Is this too rosy a combination? Well, some may say,...'nice but not
common'. Some may say... not all that nice if you look at it closely.
Some may say... BTW Clement things are more complicated than this. Yes I
agree.... I am no expert on the matter. The Aid question is a complex
one...but again... an answer to a complex question need not be complex
(...joking..). Lets hear from you.