African Government Capacity, Bureaucratic Processes Hindering Use of Increased Aid
Poor governmental capacity and slow bureaucratic processes in Africa could hinder the use of increased aid from donor nations to the continent, the Financial Times reports. Finance ministers from the Group of Eight industrialized nations earlier this month agreed to cancel the debt of 18 of the world's poorest nations, most of which are in Africa, and some G8 nations hope to increase aid to the continent at the group's summit next month in Gleneagles, Scotland. However, already available funds often remain unused by African governments because of the limitations of their absorptive capacities, according to lenders such as the World Bank and the European Commission. Some experts say there is a limit to the amount of aid a country can effectively use relative to the size of its economy. According to Steve Radelet, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, ineffectual use of aid also is partly the fault of donors. "Additional aid can be absorbed. But we have to be much smarter about how we do it," Radelet said, adding that more aid should be directed to nongovernmental organizations and private-sector channels and that there should be increased transparency in government operations.
Although the Commission for Africa -- established by British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- has called for a near tripling of aid to Africa by 2015, Blair currently is advocating for an immediate doubling of aid to the continent to $25 billion annually (White, Financial Times, 6/20). However, the Bush administration -- despite its endorsement of the G8 debt relief plan -- has "balked" at Blair's calls for increased aid, saying it already has tripled U.S. financial commitments to the continent since 2001, the Chicago Tribune reports. Bush earlier this month also announced an additional $674 million in humanitarian relief for the continent, most of which will be used for famine relief in Ethiopia and Eritrea. However, some development experts say that the $1 billion annually that will be freed for recipient countries through the debt relief plan is only part of what is needed to alleviate disease, hunger and poverty in Africa. "Debt cancellation is an important step forward, (but) it doesn't begin to address the real development issues," Princeton Lyman, senior fellow in African studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria and South Africa, said (Silva, Chicago Tribune, 6/21).