How Nonprofits Can Rethink Charity Giving in Africa

Imagine being Congolese in the year 1960. The year, that for the first time since the 1800s, the Congo was freed from Belgian rule and became the newly named the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Patrice Lumumba, a Congolese independence leader, had just been elected Prime Minister after playing a huge role in the fight for independence.

Imagine if even with that newfound sense of pride and independence, you found yourself more dependent and unsustainable than ever. Instead of celebrating freedom, the DRC quickly found itself succumbing to not just a "resource curse," but also an "aid curse."

Dambisa Moyo, author of Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There’s a Better Way For Africa says it best in this excerpt from her book:

"Giving alms to Africa remains one of the biggest ideas of our time -- millions march for it, governments are judged by it, celebrities proselytize the need for it. Calls for more aid to Africa are growing louder, with advocates pushing for doubling the roughly $50 billion of international assistance that already goes to Africa each year.

Yet evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that aid to Africa has made the poor poorer, and the growth slower. The insidious aid culture has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency markets and more unattractive to higher-quality investment."

Aid creating suffering? As unintuitive as that sounds, it’s true.

Nonprofits who work in Africa have come under criticism in the past few years as the thoughts surrounding "aid" evolve. What good does it do the people you’re aiding, if in the end, they can do nothing themselves?

In order to move past this problem, nonprofits, individuals, and governments must learn to rethink charity. Instead of donating, we need to invest in Africans. If we truly are trying to help them, that is the best thing we can do for them.

Individuals who donate are just as responsible since they ultimately decide who the money goes to. The New York Times urges individuals to look for causes that move them, but only support nonprofits that are effective and spend the money well to impact the most people.

Governments are often the worst offenders; this fact sheet from USAID details the amount of aid given to the Democratic Republic of the Congo over a few year period. The international communitiy has given the DRC hundreds of millions of dollars, yet the violence and corruption has only gotten worse. This alone should show that current thoughts toward aid are not working.

With the signing of the United Nations Peace Deal on February 24, there is hope that internal change may come. But failed deals in the past, such as during the Congo War, as well as disagreements about who would command the U.N. forces taking on M23 rebels leave Congo activists and analysts skeptical on if change is finally coming to the country known as the "rape capital of the world."

Help Africans develop skills. Give them an education. Ignite an entrepreneurial spark within them.

Don't just throw money at them.

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Emily Ballard

Emily is a student at Syracuse University studying Public Policy. She is extremely passionate about human rights advocacy and revolutionizing higher education.

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