Der Spiegel: Developmental Aid Workers Are Killing Africa

Thilo Thielke in Der Spiegel yesterday:

Development aid is a planned economy, even if it doesn’t have a plan. The belief that food shortages can be overcome in a planned economy is one that has already proved disastrously wrong in the former Soviet Union, North Korea and Cuba. One has to feel sorry for the Africans for their continued role as human guinea pigs. …

A series of African intellectuals is currently calling on people to finally just let Africa be … Trade, they say, is a much better solution to the problem than aid is. They also say that property and land need to be privatized and that subsidizing dictators needs to come to an end. They see the cure in the opposite of development aid. It would be a very valuable effort.

I think this is grossly overstated. But there is something in the some of these thoughts:

  • that development work is too often “a planned economy without a plan”;
  • that aid dependence can be a problem, especially if the donors do not follow best practice; and
  • that trade would be better than aid (but both is better still, in my view, if the aid is done right).

Published by Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and

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3 Comments

  1. I agree, I think the governments of African nations are responsible for ensuring citizens can get food. If not, they are not responsible leaders who should be removed.

    So I ignore all those advertisements for starving children asking for food donations. I don’t think the children will live long even if they had food to eat. The parents need to act, and be human. Animals live on scraps. Humans take control of their destiny.

  2. Interesting thought… However, if a planned development is needed, where is the compromise of the international community and the governments of the African countries?…

    Is the aid community going to be seated waiting for this to happen?… Show some compromise, then we’ll talk about pulling out humanitarian aid. Very cynical and easy criticism this one coming from Der Spiegel!.

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