03 December 2012

A few reasons not to cut aid to Rwanda

The Rwandan High Commissioner to the UK has a good article in today's New Times on the aid cuts, highlighting the farce of continued donor failure to meet our own commitments on the predictability of aid. 
Budget support to Rwanda was frozen not because the country has failed to use it for the benefit of those who need it most, but to influence a political end in the DRC. There is no direct link between what is happening in the DRC and what aid achieves for ordinary Rwandan citizens. This is definitely not the right way to solve DRC’s problems. Rwanda should not be penalized for the failures of another country... 
One important point to underscore is that these political decisions directly affect the poor. They compromise the quality of aid which has an adverse effect on the quality of development outcomes and results. But fundamentally the belief that aid is primarily aimed at reducing poverty and improving the welfare of the poor is greatly undermined. Even ordinary citizens begin to perceive aid as a tool only intended for political control and to buy political leverage and influence. 
Well worth reading in full. Some of the points he makes include the frankly phenomenal successes that the Rwandan government has achieved over the past five years, with the support of foreign aid, such as

- the rapid growth in the economy, 
- the rapid fall in poverty, (faster than anywhere else in Africa, and amongst the fastest ever) 
- the rapid increase in agricultural output, 
- the rapid improvement in access to finance
- the improvements in healthcare (basically no malaria to worry about thanks to mass bednet provision), and
- increases in school enrolment.
- that people in Rwanda feel safe (the safest place in Africa?), 
- and see Rwanda as one of the least corrupt countries in Africa.

Despite this impressive progress, the government is impatient, and wants to deliver more and faster. A spokesperson for Tony Blair notes that "a recent study by the British Government showed that Rwanda was one of the most effective users of aid in the world."

Of course things in DRC are complicated and it's hard to know what is really going on, but I can't help feeling that putting all of these gains at risk by seriously threatening the economy of Rwanda is just a bit irresponsible.

(I should add that I'm presently in Kigali working on a project for the Government of Rwanda. These opinions are mine and only mine, so you can of course discount any of this as you wish, but the facts.... they are just facts).

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