The UK’s international aid budget is under attack from those who say that during a time of austerity, our generosity to poorer parts of the world is something we can no longer afford. All three leaders of the main political parties have resolutely defended the UK’s proud record as a donor. And the international NGO sector publicly applauds. This is the narrative we will take with us into the general election. The debate about how the UK should show leadership in tackling global poverty will be limited to arguments about how much we should give. This is a dishonest dialogue and reinforces in the mind of the public that Africa is a problem that costs us money. It hides the truth: that we take much more than we give.
$192 billion is more than is needed annually to eliminate hunger; provide primary, and access to secondary education
If politicians really want to outdo each other in demonstrating their desire to tackle global poverty then they need to accept their role in perpetuating it, and commit to reforming those international systems that cost Africa resources. And the UK’s international NGO sector must pressure them to do so. The reality is that Africai is being drained of resources by the rest of the world. It is losing far more each year than it is receiving. While $134 billion flows into the continent each year, predominantly in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid; $192 billion is taken out, mainly in profits made by foreign companies, tax dodging and the costs of adapting to climate change. The result is that Africa suffers a net loss of $58 billion a year. As such, the idea that we are aiding Africa is flawed; it is Africa that is aiding the rest of the world.
Whilst we are led to believe that ‘aid’ from the UK and other rich countries to the continent is a mark of our generosity, our research shows that this is a deception. Wealthy countries, including the UK, benefit from many of Africa’s losses. While aid to Africa amounts to less than $30 billion per year, the continent is losing $192 billion annually in other resource flows, mainly to the same countries providing that aid. This means African citizens are losing almost six and a half times what their countries receive in aid each year, or for every £100 given in aid, £640 is given back. This demands that we rethink our role in addressing poverty in Africa.
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