Friday, January 13, 2023

The Poverty of Aid

The world has spent more than enough time trying to end global extreme poverty, with the same approaches and the same failures.

 Uganda has its fair share of poverty but the region, Busoga, it is the highest, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos), with a rate of 74.8%, compared with a national average of 63%. 

The deeper you go into the countryside, the harder life becomes. If you discount urban centres such as the tourist city of Jinja, the poverty rate in rural Busoga, such as the village of Namisita, is well above 90%.

Busoga is a byword for people living a near-ancient way of life in abject poverty.

Nationally, 60% of working Ugandans earn 200,000 Ugandan shillings (£44.50) a month, about £1.50 a day. But in Busoga many are unemployed. This is especially true in the neighbouring districts of Kamuli and Buyende, home to more than a million people: there are people who earn 50,000 to 100,000 Ugandan shillings (about £11 to £22) in an entire four-month planting season; people who have rags for bedding in their houses.

According to a 2021 Ubos report “poverty programmes and interventions have not had any dent in reducing poverty”. 

This is because interventions have always been top to bottom. Humanity is still convinced that the best solution for the world’s poor is to sit and wait for the right people from the global north to come and help.

Today, only 1% of all the money intended to end poverty (official development aid and humanitarian assistance combined), goes directly to the extreme poor.

Only 1% of all official development assistance (funding from agencies such as USAid and UKAid), and an even smaller portion (0.4% in 2018) of all international humanitarian assistance (all charitable funding included), goes directly to grassroots organisations in the global south.

In 2018, only 5.2% of the $9bn (£7.5bn) in US foundation funding earmarked for sub-Saharan Africa went to local organisations.

That means about 99% of antipoverty funding stays in the hands of the global development sector, which means western agencies. However, the sector has historically operated at arm’s length from the poor, and is very inaccessible. It is a near impossibility to get anyone from the development sector to work together on poor people-led solutions. 

The top-down approach has had more than a good run: it just hasn’t worked. The only thing it has accomplished is to keep those in poverty on the sidelines.

I have seen how top-down solutions condemn the world’s poorest to eternal poverty | Anthony Kalulu in Namisita | The Guardian

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