African Aid: Why the Richest of the Rich Could Do More

By Courtney Doll

In his book The End of Poverty, Jeffrey Sachs discusses why rich countries should be assisting the poor. He is addressing the richest of the rich, the less than one percent of the population who he says can afford to help. Sachs says the World Bank estimates covering basic needs requires $1.08 per person per day. He says escaping the poverty trap is possible with a tax on the world’s richest, and he offers five reasons why they can afford it. top-10-richest-people-in-the-world-2013

The first reason is because the amount of extremely poor people has declined to a relatively small percent of the world’s total population. Second, he says the goal is ending extreme poverty, which is much more modest than eradicating poverty altogether. His third reason is that aid can be much more effective if we identify specific, proven low-cost methods of aid instead of instead of trying to create our idea of a model economy in the country. Fourth, he cites how rich the “rich world” is in the present day. Lastly, Sachs notes how technology is ending the “information famine of rural areas” and how information can help eradicate poverty.

I agree with Sachs’ ideas and reasoning, but I do believe it isn’t as easy as it makes it seems. For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo used $2 billion in aid last year, with almost a quarter of it going toward civilian peace-building, conflict prevention and resolution. Debt relief and humanitarian aid were the next two most costly areas. Almost $300 million of this aid came from the United States. While many US citizens can afford to help fight poverty, I’m not sure how many would be okay with a tax for foreign aid, especially if it were recurring.

This video shows aid relief work that is being done in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

According to the World Bank, the rate of extreme poverty has been cut in half since 1990. The first MDG target was to reduce this by 2015. But the world cannot stop trying to end poverty just because one goal has been met. In 2004, Sachs predicted the rate of poverty will have fallen to about 20%, if not lower, by 2015. By 2010, the rate fell from 43% to 21%. The rate of poverty is falling in Malawi, from 65% in 1998 to about 51% in 2010.

Sachs addresses many myths he believes stops people from giving aid or hinders the flow of aid to Africa. He says most of these myths are “grounded in overt racism.” Sachs explains that the reason why many African countries are governed poorly is because they are poor. He says that as income rises, governance improves. I agree with his evaluation. Many people believe that African corruption is unsolvable and do not make an effort to educate themselves on how aid can improve a country. By thinking globally, one can see how aid helps on a larger scale. To think globally means to recognize that all countries are interconnected and decisions one country makes can affect many others. By the US giving aid to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Congo can strengthen its economy, increase trade, and become a bigger actor on the global scale. It can then contribute to a larger global economy, benefitting everyone involved.

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