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May 03, 2007
of aid is a carrot used by Western nations to bring feuding groups
to the negotiating table.
the British, among others, dangled the carrot of aid for land reform
and reconstruction to secure agreement from Zimbabwe's liberation
war leaders to the new Constitution brokered in 1979 at Lancaster
House in London.
"development initiatives" such as Tony Blair's Commission for Africa
have recommended doubling aid to sub-Saharan Africa to $25-billion
indicated it could significantly step up the aid it provides to
Zimbabwe, if a "pragmatic faction" can get rid of Robert Mugabe.
In return, donors want a government to stabilise the economy, restore
the rule of law, stop the use of violence as state policy and hold
free, competitive elections.
or in this case Zimbabweans, need aid at all is a question rarely
discussed. My view is that we do not need the promise of aid for
these things to happen. A strong economy, freedom, peace and prosperity
are ambitions shared by all hard-working Zimbabweans -- they are
their own incentives.
Aid can be damaging
to a developing nation. It distorts priorities and policies -- as
has been seen, in Zimbabwe, with the land issue. Transparent, pro-poor
and sustainable land reform can be done without assistance from
We need to reflect
and learn from our own experience of the past 26 years. Before new
promises are made, we should agree on whether we need aid. From
who, for what purposes and for how long?
The next question
is how to use aid in a way that will lower our dependence on outside
help in future.
moral reasons for aid, but the United Nations Millennium Project
report of 2005 issued a damning verdict on aid. Donors are often
highly unpredictable (as we saw with British aid for land reform
in Zimbabwe). Their funds tend to be targeted at technical assistance
(where the bulk of the money goes back to the donor country), or
tied to contractors from donor countries.
reflect their own objectives. Aid becomes an extension of the geopolitical
agendas of the donors, when it should offer coordinated support
to the national plans of the recipient country. Most of all, aid
is poorly administered.
Even so, we
may need to accept some donations in the short term to kick-start
Zimbabwe's recovery. This is where serious national debate needs
to start. Aid promises may never materialise. If they do, will they
distort our national processes and entrench aid dependency?
mineral, agricultural, human, cultural and natural resources. Without
corruption and misallocation of resources, tourism and agricultural
production can be brought back to their peak levels of the Eighties.
As many as four
million Zimbabweans are living and working in other countries. They
include scientists, administrators, professionals and entrepreneurs
whose skills should be mobilised wisely. Whether at home or abroad,
Zimbabweans want to work and to be productive; they don't want charity
If we do accept
aid and loans for reconstruction and development, this must be with
a view to empower households and local producers. In agriculture,
we need to empower smallholder farmers -- to produce for the market,
but also for their own food security. This will require investment
in rural infrastructure.
A new emphasis
is needed on reconstructing rundown rural roads and dams, restoring
the viability of key crops and protecting livestock by restocking
and containing diseases.
to the macro-economy have taken place since the mid-Nineties.
There have been
some positive, as well as negative, outcomes for development. Land
reform policies have altered the demographic structure of Zimbabwe.
We must start
from an assessment of these changes and chart a future anchored
to the resources we find within ourselves. Aid should be our last
Mbiba is a Zimbabwean who teaches urban planning and development
policy at the London School of Economics. He worked as policy research
analyst for the Secretariat to the Commission for Africa (CFA),
established in 2004 by United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair
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