I don’t think anyone in the “development business” could read the scathing article "Too much of a good thing: choking on aid money in Africa" in this week’s Der Spiegel without some twinges of recognition. It is a one-sided article (after all, dry wells and African plutocrats make much better copy than immunized children) but it is a side that deserves an airing.
It is well written too, as this ludicrous, but completely believable, story from Zambia shows.
“Officially development aid doesn't exist anymore. The BMZ uses the wonderfully colorful term "development cooperation." The rationale being that "the countries and organizations which Germany works with are not recipients of aid, but rather our partners."
Yet the largest projects have come into being almost entirely without input from the beneficiaries. Such as the 203 kilometers of road which connect the Zambian copper belt to the Namibian port of Walvis Bay.
So that it didn't look like charity, the Zambians contributed 4.1 percent of the $30 million road, which was financed by the German Bank for Reconstruction. But just before the road was to be inaugurated, at the beginning of 2004, the government in Lusaka announced that it wouldn't pay.
The Germans then had to come up with extra funds so that the South African contractor would carry on with the work. They also had to pay the interest accumulated on account of the delay.
On May 13, 2004 the then president of Namibia, Sam Nujoma, attended the opening celebrations, along with the Zambian president Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, so that they could be praised for having built the wonderful road. Banners were put up with the words "thank you, Sam Nujoma, thank you, Levy Mwanawasa." The German ambassador came anyway. Shortly before the inauguration a small metal sign, noting German involvement in the project, was put up on the bridge crossing the Sambesi, which marks the border between the two countries.”