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Aid Dependency in Africa: An Example of 'Shifting the Burden' System Archetype

by Yadav Sharma Bajagai

Development aid or assistance is the major financial source in developing countries after rich countries made an agreement in 1970 to donate 0.7% of their gross national income annually as official international development assistance. However, it is widely criticized that these development aids have more negative impacts than benefits in overall socioeconomic developments of poorer nations. The development aid in Africa and its long term impact has been described here as an example of ‘shifting the burden’ system archetype. 

Figure: Causal Loop Diagram of Aid dependency in African Nations

Yash Tondon, a famous writer and international development expert, has given several case histories about how African countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe became dependent to the assistance from International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and other developed nations in his book ‘Ending Aid Dependence’. Several African nations had to depend up on the international aids during economic crisis in 1980s and 1990s. They continued to fulfil large proportion of annual budget with aids rather than trying to mobilize own resources. Poorer countries were so addicted that Benjamin W. Mkapa, former president (1995-2005) of Tanzania has stated that “Development aid has taken deep root to the psyche of the people, especially in the poorer countries of the South. It is similar to drug addiction”. African countries have received much more financial assistance in comparison to GDP than any other developing areas but they have grown much slower than the other parts of the world. If they would have focussed on mobilizing their own resources rather than depending on external assistance, the countries would be independent and could develop in faster pace and get rid of economic crisis and aid dependency. This is a case of ‘shifting the burden’ in which developing countries opt to depend upon development aids rather than mobilizing their own resources during financial crisis which in log run was unable to solve the problem of economic crisis (figure).


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