Somalia and Foreign Aid

London (HAN), March 23, 2014 – Foreign aid is one of the most popular ways the western world recommends as a way of combating poverty in Africa. The fundamental assumptions that aid money is effective in contributing to economic growth development is somehow flawed. Most of the literature on foreign aid is saying that International aid is ineffective in fostering economic growth. The aid money is mostly wasted on overhead and corruption. Foreign aid is effective if economic policies of a country is good. A country with no strong financial system like Somalia will most likely divert funds to the great gapping maws of greedy politicians .A fast growing debate is generated over the effectiveness of international aid in combating poverty in the developing world.

The recent public spat between Dambisa Moyo, the author of Dead Aid, and Bill Gates of Microsoft proves that the debate is gaining more attention. Foreign aid money can be a deadly virus that attacks the bodies of countries that are beset by political and economic disappointments. Sources like private funds, and remittance have proved to be quite effective in fostering growth and investments. These funds are less likely to be misspent as compared to misappropriation of most of the foreign aid money. While considerable good comes out of supporting Somalia to pay for its government, misappropriation of aid money will keep crippling the progress of state building in Somalia! I’m not suggesting any bad faith or malice on the path of those sedulous leaders trying to resuscitate Somalia. Indeed, it is the feckless leaders that have love affair with foreign aid that I am upbraiding here!

Vultures Perch in Villa Somalia

Today Somalia is poor because of the long protracted civil war, and the stifling dominance of politics and economics by corrupt elites. If your eyes are as sharp and your ears as acute as ever, you will note that Somalia is a country where institutions don’t work, criminality and corruptions at the top office goes unchecked. Aid flow destined to help rebuild Somali government mostly end up in the pockets of the well-connected politicians. Corruption should undoubtedly be a critical concern for donors to Somalia.

To help Somalia gets on its feet donors have pledged 2.4 billion dollars at a conference in Brussels last year. This is the fund (or lack of) that a famous Somali tweeter personality was complaining about few weeks ago! A Kenyan newspaper columnist, Rasnah Warah, reported in her recent column that millions of dollars, mostly from Arab countries, were never deposited in the central bank (http://www.nation.co.ke/news/-/1056/2228088/-/14buggq/-/index.html). One wonders where all the money went. Some shocking reports are showing that Somalia was given close to seven hundred million dollar from 2004-2013.The same leaders responsible for mismanaging these foreign aids are sitting in their vultures perch at Villa Somalia waiting for more opportunities to steal!

The late American historian Howard Zinn once commented, “There is a basic weakness in governments, however massive their armies, however wealthy their treasuries, however they control the information given to the public: Their power depends on the obedience of citizens, of soldiers, of civil servants, of journalists and writers and teachers and artists. When these people begin to suspect they have been deceived and withdraw their support, the government loses its legitimacy and its power”. Unfortunately it may come as an unpleasant surprise to some that the current Somali government lost legitimacy! And frankly speaking we ought to question this government.

This is an era of showy, but insubstantial affection for Somalia-of clan arguments that burns like a jet fuel! You don’t have to go far back to find Somalia leaders ever present hypocrisy. The reaction of those implicated in the recent central bank scandal proves the contentious relationship of truth with Somali leaders. Thanks to brave people like Yusra Abrar who couldn’t stomach the corruption. Yusra unraveled the lies of the government. The former minister of foreign affairs, Fowzia Adan, released a statement responding to Reuters damaging allegations about her hands in the scandal .I guess the allegation lacerated Fowzia like a flying glass! In her unmistakable stink of desperation, Fowzia decided to pass the blame like a hot potatoes! Fowzia claims she was only a messenger that passed information from assistant minister of finance to the director of central bank. Unfortunately for Fowzia, she couldn’t squeeze the paste back into the tube. Some people even rush to her defense by saying women can never be corrupt! Unbeknown to them that a new study by political science researchers at Rice University titled “Fairer Sex” or purity myth? Corruption, Gender, and institutional Contexts” writes that, “Where corruption is stigmatized, women will be less tolerant of corruption and less likely to engage in it compared to men. But if “corrupt” behaviors are ordinary part of government supported political institutions, then there will be no corruption gender gap” (http://jee3.web.rice.edu/corruption.pdf). The more society disapproves corruption, the more women also disapproves corruption.

The case for Self-help Initiatives

The most damning delusion that western foreign aid left us with is the feeling of helplessness. We are all embedded in a complex network of affiliations; we are members of some clan and extended families. Few months ago I got a phone call from a diaspora group building roads in Somaliland. Now, I knew much of Somalia roads remained in tatters after the civil war. I wholeheartedly supported these self-help projects. The road being built was in an area right outside Hargeisa. Today more than 13km of road is built on that part of Somaliland, and many roads are on the path of being completed in Somaliland (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_u4JBmfmaA). Foreign aid will have diminished the need of the public to take control of their roads. Moreover, foreign aid would have also provided the government with monopoly over the control of the funds for these projects. Ultimately, the effectiveness of self-help initiatives hinged on the framework of communal vision and shared responsibilities of the citizens.

The celerity of Somaliland citizens in building their own roads should gratify any proud Somali. Most of the current successful projects are financially supported by the public and diaspora remittance. This is not to say Somaliland doesn’t receive foreign aid money. Far from it, if anything this proves that good governance and low poverty rate are derived from the actions and the thoughts of good citizenship. The deeper truth is that, for quite Some time, the move in favor of Secession have insulated Somaliland to define their own needs and come up with solutions and strategies to survive without recognition. The golden nugget mined from self-help projects like this one is that if done correctly they could free Somalis from over reliance on handouts. Somalia possess the potentiality for self-help initiatives. Whether and how much they actually form these communal initiatives depends on many circumstances, among which is the nature of the community leaders. The ideal for self-help remains grand, as they must have, but demanding and exacting the realization of independent Somali people requires the painstaking work of ordinary citizens. I suppose what I’m calling for here is a national imperative to do and be better Somali citizens!

Opinion Contributed BY: Nomadpilgrim: Somalia and Foreign Aid: A love affair! The case for Self-Help Projects in Somalia


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