Canadian International Development Agency

Why Are We Still Poor?

July 6, 2009
Look at the woman in the photograph on the left and her surrounding carefully. Does she look like someone who has been given help by aid agencies like United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), Oxfam, Action Aid, Christian Aid, World Vision, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and JICA?
Does she look like someone whose government has received billions of dollars in loans and grants from the World Bank or the IMF? Does she look like someone who has received financial or material help from US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France or Italy? Does she look like someone whose government receives billions of dollars in revenue from gold, oil, gas, coltan, diamond, timber, cocoa, cotton, tea, coffee, bauxite and uranium every year? Does she look like someone whose country has political and economic sovereignty or independence? And finally does she look like someone who has been liberated from colonialism?
What has happened to all the aid money or the IMF and World Bank loans or aid and grants from US, Japan, European Union and the revenue from the natural resources? In short why are the people so poor when Aid Agencies are helping them every day; when the World Bank and IMF give them loans every day; and US, Japan, Britain, Germany and others give aid and grants to the people every year? Who has benefited from all these monies? Could it be the donors and aid agencies themselves or the politicians who sometimes receive the money on behalf of the people? Could it be that nothing at all is received?
Why are we still poor? This is a troubling question. I cannot understand why after so many years of aid and big loans Africa still sits at the bottom of the world’s progressive continents. 
The World Bank and IMF claim to provide vital financial support to poor countries to help them alleviate poverty but more than fifty years of loans to these poor countries, poverty is still decimating them. So what happened to all the billions of dollars that the World Bank and IMF have provided to the world’s poor? Could it be that the Bank and IMF give the loans and then turn round to force these poor countries to use it to service old and illegitimate debts? 

Private banks


Could it be that the Bank and IMF give the loans to corrupt regimes who then deposit the money in their private banks in Europe and then ask the poor people who never benefited from the loans to use the little resources they have to service the odious debts? Could it be that the policies and solutions often prescribed by the Bank and IMF are toxic to the economies of these poor countries? Could it be that the loans are used to pay the so called technical experts that the Bank and IMF often send to the poor countries as advisers?
Could it be that the loans are given with conditions that benefit the creditors and not the countries who borrow the money? Can the World Bank and IMF explain to the World why so many poor countries remain poor after they had received tens of billions of dollars from them?
How do multinational corporations doing business in Africa pay for the resources that they exploit? Do they pay the governments with arms and military machines for use to oppress the people? Shell has been sued in the US for complicity in the hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other environmentalist in Nigeria. Could it be that such complicities by multinational corporations, IMF, World Bank and Western governments are the result of the chronic poverty in the resource rich countries of Africa?
Who has received the money the multinational corporations pay? Or they don´t pay anything at all because they often pay bribes to politicians to look elsewhere why they plunder the resources, destroy and pollute the environment, rivers, wells, creeks, soil, lakes and fish stocks which are the livelihoods of most communities in mining and oil exploitation areas? Could it be that the destruction of their livelihoods by the multinationals are the result f the poverty and malnutrition we see in the continent?
Do multinational corporations declare all the profits they make in the African countries where they operate or they declare just pay a little and then hide the rest in their save haven accounts in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Austria, Hong Kong, Singapore, Jersey and Caymans Island and the rest? And what role have they played to reduce poverty in the areas that they operate? How much of the billions of dollars of profits that Shell, BP, Chevron and Total make in Nigeria, Gabon, Angola, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea is used to correct the lasting environmental damage done to the communities where the resources are extracted? Is there anything called corporate social responsibility and how has the poor in Africa benefited from such responsibility? 
Every year African leaders receive tens of billions of dollars from the sale of oil, gas, diamond, gold, bauxite, coltan, timber, cocoa, tea, coffee, cotton and many others. What has happen to all the money? Could it be that the money has been wasted on white elephant projects? Could it be that the money is stolen out right by corrupt politicians, the business elite and their cronies? If so could it be that Switzerland, France, Britain may be having a clue as to what has happened to all the money?
I have mentioned Switzerland and Britain because their banks have had direct links with all the corrupt regimes that Africa has ever produced from Mobutu, Sani Abacha, Lansana Conte, Eduardo dos Santos, Bakili Muluzi, Paul Biya and Blaise Campore to Ibrahim Babangida. Switzerland has so far returned $1.6-billions dollars to the poor countries where it was stolen, could it be that Switzerland and Britain are still hiding billions of dollars that could be used to improve the lives of Africans? 
I mentioned France because Omar Bongo of Gabon and his family are known to have 70 banks accounts plus 59 luxury properties and 8 luxury cars in France alone and Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo and his family also have 122 bank accounts, 24 luxury properties and a number of luxury cars in France alone not to mention those in Switzerland and other save haven centres. Could it be that the money meant for the development of the people like the woman in the above photograph is sitting in these 200 bank accounts in France? It is only God who knows how much money is contained in 70 and 122 accounts.

Abject poverty


There are so many Aid and Humanitarian Agencies in Africa claiming to be helping the people to alleviate poverty but fifty years on majority Africans still wallow in abject poverty with millions of children being left orphans due to diseases such HIV/AIDS and Ebola. Why? 
Could it be that the Aid Agencies are not doing any work and claim to be working? Could it be that the Aid Agencies only cry for attention without necessarily doing anything to help the poor? Or could it be that they use the plight of the people to raise money and then use the money to pay fat salaries and bonuses to their staff and hold big parties without necessarily using the money to help the poor?
Every year United States, Japan, the European Union, Germany, Britain, France and Italy claim to give millions of dollars to the poor countries in the form of loans, grants and what have you. But we still have not seen poverty going down or stabilising. What has been happening to the aid money that US, Japan and Europe claim to have been given to third world countries? Who receives those monies and what do they use the money for? How has the ordinary people benefited from the grants and aid? If so much has been received then so much should have been done to reduce poverty isn’t it? Why are we still poor despite years of development assistance? 
If indeed the Aid Agencies, World Bank, IMF, US, Japan, European Union, Britain, Germany, France have given so much then why are we poor? Is it lack of luck or what? I really don’t know can someone please help me?
*The Author is a Political Activist and Anti-Corruption Campaigner. He blogs at

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