Wrong on how African aid goes, well, wrong

As I’m incredibly slow at catching up on the latest and greatest books, I’m just now reading “It’s Our Turn to Eat” by Michela Wrong. Released in 2009, the book is overall an interesting shift from her normal journalistic telling of events given that she was tossed in to the narrative a great deal when the Kenyan whistle blower, John Githongo ended up hiding at her place in London while the Anglo-Leasing scandal unfolded in Kenya.

Beyond the whole story of how this scandal came to be and how the players involved were who they were, there is also a lot of analysis of aid in Africa. The following quote from the chapter, “A Form of Mourning” has been the utmost and most poignant of the lot as it is incredibly, horribly true:

…Critics of international aid often claim it all ends up in Swiss bank accounts, a charge development officials easily swat away, pointing at the accountants and consultants who police spending. The argument should be a different one: not that aid is itself stolen, but that the donors make it possible, via that aid, for governments to dip their hands elsewhere in the budget while still delivering basic services, thereby escaping the electorate’s wrath. Accountability moves offshore, thanks to aid’s fungibility.

I’ve been trying to tell people this for the last few years, but sadly about halfway through I see a blank stare and that look which generally says, “But I want to help. What about the poor children?” All I can say is that really, we’re doing no end of bad with the billions the US and EU dump upon African and we need to own up to that fact.