How aid to Africa is lost, stolen and frittered away……

In the last fifty years the West has poured more than six hundred billion dollars of tax payers’ money into aid in Africa. But how much is there to show for it and why are so many Africans still living in poverty? In some countries they are actually getting poorer. Award winning Sierra Leonean journalist Sorious Samura is now asking whether we might have got it all wrong. Instead of being distracted by arguments about how much money to give, perhaps we should focus on where the cash is actually ending up?

Sorious will be live in the WHYS studio on Monday to take your questions – you can post them here. You can also view this film he’s made for the BBC’s Panorama programme. In the film he visits a showpiece hospital run by a well funded health department that looks like a warzone and yet its carpark is home to dozens of new 4x4s for ministry staff. He questions a former minister accused of stealing funds and offers his vision of how Africans can take control of their own destiny.

29 Responses to “How aid to Africa is lost, stolen and frittered away……”

  1. 1 IK
    November 21, 2008 at 20:45

    It is quite obvious where all these monies have been going to, the foreign accounts of African leaders past and present and their clients located at various levels of the political, economic and bureaucratic structure of the domestic and international polity.

    At 2003, over 230 Billion US Dollars was said to be located in the foreign bank accounts of some 3000 citizens from one one African country alone and a look at the names would throw up some recognizable names that have been involved with the state under one capacity or another.

    Thus, the culpability of these foreign financial houses in abetting this practice. This is the lack of credibility and good governance that have continued to plague Africa, and until these negatives are nipped in the bud, Africa might well be subjected to this malaise in an emergent 21st century reality.

  2. 2 Roberto
    November 21, 2008 at 21:09

    RE “” tax payers’ money into aid in Africa. “”

    ——— The west sponsors corrupt regimes and crime in Africa.

    Just about zero accountability. The Africans would be better off with no aid to corrupt leaders and black market moguls.

    Of course now the chickens coming home to roost in the west with global financial collapse.

  3. 3 VictorK
    November 21, 2008 at 23:02

    @IK: “Thus, the culpability of these foreign financial houses in abetting this practice” [the theft of foreign aid].

    It’s not the responsibility of foreign banks to keep Africans honest. Africans are either responsible for themselves, or they should ask to be turned into colonies again so that their countries will be run properly. It is pointless, after more than a generation of independence, to point the finger at anyone but Africans for Africa’s plight.

    @Roberto: can you give examples of how the West (Iceland? Poland? Portugal? Who exactly do you mean?) ‘sponsors corrupt regimes and crime in Africa’. If the West does nothing, it’s blamed; when it throws away hundreds of billions trying to help Africa, it’s blamed. Better to keep the money and be blamed.

    It’s time to simply admit what the facts are telling us: Africans – like other groups, such as Palestinians – are incapable of managing their own affairs honestly or competently. Africans routinely produce corrupt leaders. They are incapable of patriotism or self-sacrifice. They became independent generations, perhaps centuries, earlier than they should have. And their colonial borders, and the enforced diversity they’ve led to, have been a disaster. To still be blaming the West at this point is fatuous.

  4. 4 Juris
    November 21, 2008 at 23:31

    From the Latvian experience with the help in destroyed Georgia. The best help is the one you can hardly make to money easily like help in form of a build school, or any kind of material help, because money is much easier to steal as a car full of corn.

    I think the help for Africa should be martial things for the people like food, education and the means of growing crops them selfs. And of course investments in the system of delivering this aid to them, as i said in the beginning we had some experience in delivering aid not that long back in Georgia. Investment in infrastructure gave a efficiently bonus of 15 -25 % in the aid to reach the recipients, Georgian people. In contrast to the first shipments without our observers.
    And who knows, maybe Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda is receiving the money, we are giving to the African governments to improve the lives of African people.

    For short: Martial help with transparent distribution good, giving funds to governments bad.

  5. 5 terry
    November 22, 2008 at 02:14

    .my views r the same the west has been doing 2 much 4 africa.it is time 4 the people 2 rise up and take their country back…….. the ports where the pirates r should not b theirs . a group of countrys should put a force together take the port and hold it .the u.n. has no bite in anything they do……..bravo 2 the india’s navy tht put tht pirates mother ship @ the bottom of the sea..

  6. November 22, 2008 at 12:42

    “… perhaps we should focus on where the cash is actually ending up?”

    Perhaps indeed. There is no transparency at all in this area, which, considering it is taxpayers money is a disgrace.

    The technology is in place to show the world where every cent of this aid money goes, right down to the pencil sharpeners, and it should be implemented. If recipients of the aid are not prepared to comply with this transparency they should not receive the aid.

    Not only would this reassure the taxpayers who ultimately donate the money, but it might serve to reassure the population of recipient countries that their respected leaders are not frittering it away on Gucci shoes and the other trappings of an unnecessary luxurious lifestyle.

    It might also make the aid agencies think twice before furnishing their projects with state-of-the-art toys and concentrate a bit more on why they are there in the first place.

  7. 7 khalid
    November 22, 2008 at 19:56

    I start to like WHYS very much.

    I think one of the consistent mistake the western countries keeps on repeating, are their egotism towards the people of the third world countries. They think they know how to solve their problems! They think they are the only one who has the answers for all the problems.

    In many cases, they (western countries) think they (third world countries) are so fool, that they don’t know how to spend the money and take care of their lives. That’s not true. The truth is that they are smart enough to fool the west – take the money and put it in some banks outside the continent. The West needs to invest money through education, not only in Africa but through out third world countries. Education is the key to bring success to a family, to the village, to the district, to the country, to the continent and through the world.

  8. 8 Kris
    November 23, 2008 at 11:18

    Yes it is. The problem is how do we create governance that truly represents the needs of the populace where the onlny pre-existing system was warlordism?We must cereate order and a sense of safety for populations. All of Africa cries out for freedom. The wealth and dynasim of a whole continent is currently subjugated to survival of individuals because of the inability of transnational organs to find peace.
    It is an issue where we are trying to advance the needs of the species (humans) with greed as a major barrier to progress in Africa. The advancement of all the peoples of Africa in terms of income can eliminate these blights.
    Are we all animals that exist in a dog eat dog world? I believe not! That being the case, then we do need to have interests for all people in planatary issues. This means that we should all recieve a fair payment for our daily toil regardles of where we live. There is at present a huge imbalance that makes the rich richer and keeps the poor poor. from region to region and from country to country Untill we can correct this we will remain a world in conflict.
    How do we resolve issues in a timley manner in Africa? We are not supposedly advanced in the west that cannot we find the answers? There is an obligation, therefore, to provide those remidies and allow those countries to contribute to the greater good of the species.

  9. 9 roebert
    November 23, 2008 at 13:39

    How Aid to Africa is Lost, Stolen and Frittered Away, featuring Robert Mugabe and the Man from UK-aid.

    RM: Yello! This is the Emperor Robert ‘Bonkers’ Mugabe Maxissimus Primus.
    BF: Hello Bonky, old boy! Billingsworth-Fanshaw here, UK-aid. I’ve some awfully good news for you…
    RM: What! Her Majesty is inviting me to dine at the palace?
    BF: Not for me to say, old chap. But we are offering you half a billion pounds’ worth of good old African aid. However, there’s a catch, old man…we need you to account for the last half billion…rather a nuisance, I know…
    RM: No problem, Billy. We funded 603 committees of investigation into poverty relief, 729 inquiries intro government corruption, refurbished three prisons, replaced the palace swimming-pool, funded a project to put the first all-African satelite into orbit and acquired 100 000 Kalashnikovs. We also built a nice new clinic just outside Makorokoro village…
    BF: Jolly good! Well that sums it up quite nicely, I daresay. Forgive me, old boy…absolutely must ask: what will you do with this pile then?
    RM: We’ll pretend to use it for buying up White-owned farms…haw haw haw…and re-distributing them to Black agricultural experts.
    BF: Extraordinary! Gad, you really are a first-rate political thinker, Bonky.
    RM: You don’t mind if we just throw them off the land then?
    BF: Not at all! Had their innings, what?
    RM: Excellent. Then we’ll use the savings to re-empower disempowered Black empowerment.
    BF: Makes awfully good sense, Bonky. Well, I’ll get the cheque off first thing in the morning. Toodle-oo, old man.
    RM: Pip pip, Billy. (Thinks) Damned skinflint Brits. What’s half a billion worth these days? Can’t buy a half-decent German limo with that small change.

  10. 10 Emile Barre
    November 23, 2008 at 15:02

    Too many Mobutus and not enough Nyreres.

  11. November 23, 2008 at 18:39

    We hear so many bad examples of aid where money is lost or wasted. My question is what positive examples do you have where money was spent efficiently and how was this achieved? What lessons can be taken from these projects/countries and enforced by the donors elsewhere in Africa?

  12. 12 roebert
    November 24, 2008 at 09:22

    But seriously: Africa has had 50 post-colonial years to establish viable independent states, viable in terms of their economies, governance and judiciary. Most have failed to do so; many are ‘failed states’. Given that there are only about 20 years ahead of us before major global changes completely alter the way we run our economies and societies, how do you expect Africa to catch up? Isn’t it time now to recognise the need for massive western intervention in Africa, to establish some new form of assisted government in failed African states, in terms of which at least their economies and judiciaries are subjected to some sort of neo-colonial overseership? Wouldn’t this be in the best interests of the people of Africa, crushed as they are by poverty and misrule?

    Isn’t this what China is gradually working towards in many African countries today?

    In a nutshell: shouldn’t aid be conditional on some form of neo-colonial assisted government?

  13. 13 Buchi Asogwa
    November 24, 2008 at 11:29

    Africa is, indeed, addicted to foreign aid – our excessive resources notwithstanding. But we don’t really need such a wonderfully commendable research as was carried out by the Sierra leonean (Mr. Samura) to neither remind us of such shame nor to (even the more painfully) reveal to us that there is nothing at all to show for both our abundant resources and these infinite foreign aids. We the people of Africa have always remained the basic cause and rekindlers of our problems.

    It all seems reasonable for Mr. Samura to advocate that the West should go beyond giving aids to Africa, but go the extra miles of monitoring the quality of the effect of these aids. He added: “Hell no! I’m not saying they should stop giving aids to Africa…” But as an African, I keep asking myself what Africa is giving freely to the rest of the world. Why should someone go through dolling out money for Africa, with all the bureaucratic works involved in raising and processing such funds, and yet set up staff and offices to start monitoring how such money is spent? I honestly believe that my continent is being a serious migraine headache to the rest of the world.

    Does Mr. Samura expect the donors who are moved, on daily basis – by the perpetual outbreak of crisis in all the countries of Africa that leaves more people in need, to shut up their feelings to such sufferings while working hard to untangle the smart webs of fraud and misappropriations that are created by the animals we call leaders here? Perhaps he expects these donors to leave there own economic pursuit and all come to Africa to fix our management structure. If so how would they be able to raise such funds that are perpetually and seriously needed all over this continent?

    This and all other problems in Africa are easily and constantly blamed on leadership here. That is not far from being the truth, not in the least! But for how long shall we remain a wart, a pimple in the forehead of the world just because of these animals?

    Only the people of Africa (not the animals we call our leaders here, nor those magnanimous donors) can stop Africa from being addicted to donor aids, always going cap-in-hand and lead by shameless corrupt leader to beg for more! It is simple. We can achieve that.

    Lagos, Nigeria.

  14. 14 Dan
    November 24, 2008 at 11:53

    At the end of the Cold War Senator Boxer (D-CA) ran around screaming “Peace Dividend-Peace Dividend” looking to redirect money to her pet projects. Boxer did not understand that the dividend of peace is peace.
    Money needed to be redirected to help 3rd world countries develop. That did not happen and instead the West went on a spree of self-indulgence.
    It seems to me that by taking our eyes off of the ball we ended up with Islamic extremists who thru Islam keep their people in poverty and ignorance, the breeding ground for radicals and Africa that seems daily to further descend into chaos with millions starved and murdered.
    Simply giving them money and food is the liberal Hollywood “Feel-Good” response but does nothing of any substance. Haven’t we finally realized that after $1 TRILLION flushed down the African toilet?
    I think that to “save” Africa will take a concerted effort by The West and China to stabilize the countries, feed the people, educate the people, develop a professional military in each country and start a process of returning them to a self government. It will take decades.
    The question is “Is the West and China willing to develop a coordinated plan and pour those resources into Africa?” The issue is also silencing the Politically Correct bleeding hearts who are unable to see any big picture and will cry about every minuscule incident and we will see on nightly news some poor baby dying.
    Say….has the Politically Correct crowd ever saved anybody?

  15. 15 Caroline
    November 24, 2008 at 12:29

    I agree it is time to stop the aid to Africa for the reasons mentioned above. However, neo-colonialism does not seem the answer to me: we already have that in the form of the neo-liberal ‘free market’ that puts African countries that do wish to put in the effort to get themselves out of poverty in a seriously disadvantaged position. Being forced to open up their markets to our products that often-times have been produced with government subsidies, while in our loan ‘agreements’ with Africa we force them to abolish their subsidies. So, yes, please abolish the enormous influx of aid money to Africa that is stolen by its leaders. Make the trade conditions more fair, and then let African countries be responsible for their own destiny.

  16. November 24, 2008 at 12:37

    @ Roebert: HAHAHHAHA! Admit it, you’re an undercover spy and tapped the wires, right?

    I think the West is just pouring the money into Africa to acquiesce their own bad conscience, not really bothering to follow up what has been accomplished with it. It’s easier to give the homeless on the street a dollar and move on than actually sit down and figure out what could really be done to help this person, and the same happens on the international level. Nowadays we “attach some strings” to our aid, but do we really look whether those strings hold or not? Chances are, they don’t, but we are so busy with our own countries, we can’t really be bothered…

  17. 17 selena in Canada
    November 24, 2008 at 13:59


    Say….has the Politically Correct crowd ever saved anybody?

    When has anyone ever been saved? Sadly, there comes a time sooner or later when we go the way of all flesh.

    Why do politically “incorrect’ people think they can be saved or that someone can save them?

    An example of this is war where others die to save people? That seems an outdated concept to me.

    Why would I expect others to lose their live to save me? What makes me so important?

    You say keep their people in poverty and ignorance

    Does working three jobs to keep up a spending front, or just to keep food on the table, denote a lack of poverty and ignorance?

  18. 18 Dan
    November 24, 2008 at 14:00


    I appreciate your idealism but how can the African countries be responsible for their own destiny when there are outside groups trying to take over various Governments to set up a new base, there is little or no infrastructure, present “leaders” are murdering their own people etc…etc…etc.
    Africa is a basket case that will require massive direct intervention by the West & China in a coordinated effort to reestablish infrastructure, develop a professional military, feed people and educate people. Then we need to help them install a functional Government.
    Too bad George W. Bush chose to waste our people and throw our treasury down an Arab toilet.

  19. 19 Dan
    November 24, 2008 at 14:08

    @selena in Canada
    Good Morning

    My point is that bleeding heart Hollywood liberals cannot see the big picture and will hold a starving baby up before a camera and curse at their own Government for not saving “this poor child”. In the 40’s had there been a political correctness movement WWII would have been lost.

    My other point is that Islam has kept more people in poverty and ignorance thus has created excellent breeding grounds for radicalism. To address your question and I cannot be entirely sure but in my opinion when someone has to work 3 jobs they may either be financially overextended or lack the skills to be able to compete in the jobs marketplace. There other reason is that perhaps they are living in an area that is no longer compatible with their financial resources.
    For a woman the above may not be satisfactory reasons ans she may be “stuck”‘ with kids and is struggling.

  20. 20 selena in Canada
    November 24, 2008 at 15:22


    My point is that bleeding heart Hollywood liberals cannot see the big picture and will hold a starving baby up before a camera and curse at their own Government for not saving “this poor child”.

    That’s an excellent point. I agree that this type of thinking is counterproductive, as its only outcome is a continuation of the same.

    Clearly we have done too much meddling in Africa for our own selfish gains. And, if the reports are to be believed, a small percentage of aid actually reaches its intended destination.

    In order for there to be any semblance of change, the present way of thinking must undergo radical restructuring. Saving one child does not matter much when there are many thousands that need saving. It makes a lottery of the process.

    Similarly thousands of children dying are thousands of single children. So, what’s a body to do?

    There is a bigger picture here somewhere and we, as a society, can mount an expedition to find it. The big picture may tell us we should leave the Africans to duke it out amongst themselves. Let them have their own Wild West!

  21. 21 Omunyaruguru
    November 24, 2008 at 15:30

    Giving Aid to Africa is very important for the west. It gives the west a greater sense of esteem and usefulness. It makes all those Aid workers feel that they are doing something worthy with their lives – HEROES. An Africa without Aid would develop better than an Africa with Aid. Of course a few million people would die, but we would develop faster.

  22. 22 Caroline
    November 24, 2008 at 17:05


    You list an impressive array of ‘massive direct interventions’ (talk about idealism!), but my question is… ‘Why’?

    Apart from this: you yourself provide the answer to why your idea is doomed to fail: it isn’t exactly working out in Iraq, is it? Surely you are not so naive to think that what did not work in Iraq, will miraculously bring wonderful results in ‘Africa’ = 61 countries?

  23. 23 brinda.hg
    November 24, 2008 at 19:43

    I agree with peter who saying to Stop giving aid to Africa.
    If People of a country cannot hold their own government accountable then any amount of monitoring will not help.
    A nation is as good as its citizens. IF no one wants to take responsibility for their own problems then no outside can do anything.
    As it is there are thousands suffering in spite of 50 years of aid. There will be some more sufferers if the aid stops but atleast there is an effort from a country to stand on its own legs. AS M gandhi said not give the poor Money , you are not helping.Tech them a skill and u they will take care of the rest.

  24. 24 archibald in oregon
    November 24, 2008 at 19:47

    I stood on a street in Nairobi about 20years ago, when president Daniel Moi was still in office. There was a monument as large as a city block, made of black marble with his likeness chisled in it, all around there were wandering people with crying children and people asking anyone, who looked like they had anything, for help. I got into a taxi and asked the man who this (colorful epithet) was that was building monuments to himself while his people starved on the very streets of his city. The cabby turned around, horrified and fearful that someone could have heard me, even over the din of the cab. “you must never say these things in public to anyone, you could be arrested or killed….”, he said to me in a hushed tone. We did not speak for the rest of the ride.
    I think that solving the problems of African aid must start with giving the people back a voice and eliminating the fear of reprisal. Those charged with the aid of people should be held to a much higher standard and be accountable for every last cent. That said, things in Africa seem not to work without bribery, it is a continental institution. Eliminating this facet would change much.

  25. 25 Akua Pacquette
    November 24, 2008 at 19:51

    Why would developed countries WANT a developed Africa? No developed country wants to admit to contributing to the massive poverty and human suffering occuring in Africa, but they all want access to cheap African raw materials. Slavery, colonisation, and now “aid” is just another tactic in the age-old saga of African Exploitation. If governmental aid to Africa was being used to sponsor terrorists as opposed to lining the pockets of corrupt, murderous African leaders, it would have been stopped ages ago. When will Africans wake up and say Enough? Development will only take place when Africans make it happen! Aid or no Aid.

  26. 26 Mike
    November 24, 2008 at 19:57

    Here’s a confounding question. Where is there a people who who claim to be refugees for 60 years?! Who voted overwhelmingly for a terrorist government that oversees the destruction of beautifully constructed infrastructure and the firing of thousands of missiles at those who were forced off those beautiful, privately owned properties by an unrepresentative government? Where the world sends its hard-earned “relief” money in the form of sugar, flour, oil, fuel, etc.? Where generations have been brainwashed with the worst kind of murderous hatred for innocent people? Well, that would be the lovely terrorist entity known as “Gaza.” Why don’t we redirect these “relief” supplies to the peaceful, loving immigrants from Russia that are struggling to establish themselves in Israel instead?
    Why don’t we finally repatriate these “refugees” to their 22 Arab countries.

  27. 27 Dan
    November 24, 2008 at 19:59


    In the Middle east you are dealing with a very different situation. Islam has kept people illiterate & poor. Then you have black eyed mullahs dictating life. The culture is medieval.
    My sense is that Africans are, for lack of a better phrase, reaching for the light.
    Muslims seem to only want to kill people

  28. 28 Lucky Obi
    November 26, 2008 at 17:59

    It’s sad to note that African Slave masters otherwise called Rulers have over the years subjected their slaves who they call subjects or citizens to untold social oppression, political manipulations of various types and economic depravation including the bitter years of slave trade. They have thus demonstrated in unambigous terms their wickedness, insatiable greed, administrative incompetence, criminal sadism and illiteracy. Let me ask, who gave aid to the European and Asian countries when they were in similar circumstances like we are now and how was such aid utilised if it was given? Africa in reality should be giving aid to the rest of the world considering the amount of natural resources we are endowed with coupled with good weather, very fertile soil, abundant human resourcesetc. Let me ask again, how can Africa hope to develop in the face of wars, mass illiteracy, killer diseases, poor social infastructure, unstable and fraudulent polity and a very weak economic base. We console ourselves by making that laughable claim that Africa is the cradle of civilisation. In what sense? If I were a believer in reincarnation, I would not have hesitated to draw this conclusion that all of us born Africans had lived very ungodly lives in our previous incarnation and have been sentenced to this huge prison camp called Africa whose shape on the world map represent a giant question mark probably asking this one question, whither goest thou Papa Africa? It is really sad indeed to conclude that, all things bright and beautiful, all things great and small, Africa kills them all!

  29. November 27, 2008 at 05:04


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