Almost a half of the African population live in extreme poverty. Despite all the international efforts, there has not been much progress in eliminating misery and starvation on this continent since the 1990s.
The amount of international aid received by the countries of sub-Saharan Africa has duplicated over the past decade, reaching $200 billion in 2015. However in 2010, 48.5% of this region’s population, or 414 million people, lived on less than $1.25 a day. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about 30% of people in sub-Saharan Africa are starving. These facts bring forth the question about the efficiency of the provided humanitarian aid.
An effective plan of combating poverty should address not only the consequences of this social evil but also its reasons. One of the main causes of poverty in Africa is governmental mismanagement. Other major problems, such as armed conflicts or rapid population growth, could have been mitigated or restrained by efficient governmental policies.
Most African nations do not have strong and long-lasting democratic traditions. In 1950, only four countries in Africa had their own governments, while the rest were colonies of European nations. The absence of strong democratic institutions means that those who come to power do not actually perform the will of their people. Many African leaders use their positions to increase their personal wealth, and do not care much about improving the life of the poor. Moreover, the underdevelopment of democratic institutions means that it is virtually impossible to remove such leaders from power through free elections. When ordinary people have almost no influence on governmental policy, it is hardly possible to ensure that the government will do the things these people need.
The lack of accountability of African governments to their people is one of the causes that leads to the inefficient use of international aid. Another cause is the insufficient control by the institutions that provide this aid. Authoritarian governments that are not interested in real changes may only conduct incomplete, superficial reforms and still receive another tranche. Furthermore, they get used to relying on the money from abroad to reach their short-term goals, and lose the incentive to develop national economies.
The efficiency of international aid to combat poverty in Africa can be improved if money transfers come along with stricter requirements to structural economic reforms and developments of democratic institutions. Without changing the way in which most of these nations are currently managed, the global community can never hope to completely overcome their misery and starvation.
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