Sunday, 15 January 2012

Andrew Mitchell says aid to Ghana is working. A complacent view at odds with my experiences?

Written on iphone. Sent from iPhone.

Andrew Mitchell, the minister for International development has put a positive case for aid using Ghana as a template.

Having visited Ghana last February in conjunction with aid agencies to look at world food challenges my own view is at odds with Mr Mitchell's.

We should be providing aid, no doubt. At times you have to turn your head away and avoid looking at some of the sights you see. Especially those involving young children. It's sickening.

These sights are not isolated. Having visited the south, north, east and west of rural Ghana the dollar a day poverty (or even less) is constant and grinding. Corruption appeared rife and the country is dominated by feudal farming. The idea of any commercial activity has to be set against a poor network of roads and little or no infrastructure.

The only degree of commercial agriculture being cocoa around Kimasi and to the south. Most aid appeared to go on administration and headquarters. It was hard to find any evidence of it helping farmers or the poor.

Many places had no water, sanitation, roads or electricity. Schools with little but at blackboard in the age of the internet. Children with little reason to go to school when grinding poverty surrounds.

Ghana is a country that has oil. Offshore. Oil that can be drilled and shipped without ever reaching the Ghanaian mainland. Cocoa adds to the countries wealth but it does not create much wealth for Ghanaians. Oil and cocoa cause currency problems leading to the import of rice at the cost of domestic production.

The one aspect of Ghana that stood out above other aid recipient countries is stability. Peaceful elections and a degree of political continuity. This is not something that is consistent with aid funding. Many countries in receipt of aid are unstable.

Andrew Mitchell's success story strikes me as political statement rather than a statement of the reality of international aid and what is really happening.

Sent from my iPhone
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