Sach’s blogs on poverty in Africa from the G8

The London bombings came as the G8 came together to discuss poverty in Africa.  Attention to that very serious issue also suffered as a result.  Jeffrey Sach’s blogged the G8 (and unexpectedly the bombing) for the FT.

“We have recently heard much, and much wrong, about the question of whether aid can actually deliver benefits to the poor. The sceptics claim that vast amounts of aid have gone down the drain. They cite alleged huge numbers, approximately $500 billion of total aid to Africa over 50 years, as “proof” of the failure of aid. They don’t recognize that a sum of aid flows added over 50 or more years will sound large though the annual aid per African has actually been quite small.

Just do the arithmetic. Aid to Africa has averaged perhaps $10 billion per year during the past half century ($500 billion divided by 50), shared among an average African population of roughly 400 million during this period, or approximately $25 per African per year in aid. Of that annual flow, well over half would typically come as emergency food aid and salaries of US and European consultants, rather than as actual investments in Africa. In recent years, another part of the “aid” has been exaggerated headline figures on debt cancellation, which greatly exaggerate the cash flow relief per year. Actual investments supported by the donor aid might have averaged say $5 to $10 per African per year, or even less.

This has not been nearly enough to address a continent profoundly vulnerable to deep and widespread drought, pervasive disease, huge overland transport costs with many landlocked countries, and a legacy of a century of colonialism that left a disastrously poor physical infrastructure and a shockingly low level of literacy and higher education at the time of African independence. Small aid flows per African per year ran up against uniquely large developmental needs.”