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Prof. Augustus Nuwagaba tips African countries on prioritizing trade over aid

By Prof. Augustus Nuwagaba

Since 1960, Africa has received billions of dollars in aid. In the last 30 years alone, one estimate puts aid to the continent at $1.2 trillion, though distributed very unevenly across the continent.

Although there has been visible economic growth, an increase in life expectancy, and a reduction in poverty, the rise in living standards has been relatively meager and few African countries have achieved the rapid economic growth seen in much of Asia – in South Korea, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, or Bangladesh – in the same period.

The debate over the effectiveness of foreign aid is a complex and nuanced one. Aid has undoubtedly brought some positive impacts to recipient countries, but there are strong arguments suggesting that, on the whole, aid has not been as effective as initially intended.

The new way should be shifting towards emphasizing trade over aid. Traditional aid often creates a cycle of dependency, where recipient countries become reliant on continuous injections of aid rather than developing self-sustaining economies.

When aid projects are planned and executed by external agencies without local input or ownership, they can fail to address the real needs and priorities of the recipient countries. This can lead to projects that are not sustainable or relevant to the local context.

Massive aid injections can sometimes disrupt local markets, leading to reduced incentives for domestic production and creating unfair competition for local businesses. This can hinder economic growth in the long term.

Trade, on the other hand, has the potential to empower countries to take control of their own economic destinies. Engaging in trade allows countries to tap into their own competitive advantages and generate sustainable income streams.

This approach encourages self-reliance and fosters economic diversification.

The writer is an International Consultant On Economic Transformation.

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