Aid and Conditionality: Enhancing Good Governance In Sub-Saharan Africa

The persistent low state of development in sub-Saharan Africa has become a global challenge.  Academics and think-tanks continue to search for solutions to Africa’s longstanding problems.  Studies have proven that the entire region is essentially confronted with a crisis of social structures and government and the fragmentation of authority is the hallmark of this crisis.

Over twenty-four million people are infected with HIV and AIDS, growth of per capita income is low and civil wars have killed millions in Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  African governments owe billions of dollars in debt.  This irreversible trend brought the good governance discourse in development cooperation between the donors and African counterparts.

It is a fact that good governance enhances transparency in the use of development aid, helps to reduce poverty and spurs development, and that it is necessary to foster institutional reforms.  Also good governance improves the use of political power by leaders and help in the consolidation of peace.

Achieving global governance is a main issue in international politics today. Enforcing good governance is a must if Africa has to be fully integrated into the process of globalisation.  And for globalisation to be complete and meaningful, poverty in Africa as well as other parts of the world must be eradicated.  No amount of foreign aid can lead to meaningful development without effective governance.  The poor state of development in Africa produces a backlash that has a global reach.

Europe, for example, is facing a huge influx of migrants from Africa in search for greener pastures.  Eradicating poverty is therefore a global challenge as the world becomes more global.  The fight against poverty and underdevelopment has given rise to a greater inter-state relationship in which powerful institutions play a decisive role.  Good governance is an important normative concept that can push international relations forward.

Good governance is key to aid effectiveness and development.  It demonstrates that countries with good governance achieve relatively high levels of well-being and it helps the state to have a responsibility to bring in development by creating a market-friendly environment and draws a divide between the good governance approach and neo-liberalism on the roles of the state and market.  It places the state at the centre in contrast to neo-liberalism which sees the market as playing a more determinant role towards achieving sustainable development.

In the 1960s, most African countries attained independence and accepted the legal and political structures they inherited from their colonial masters.  These emerging African states viewed development as a change from their traditional subsistence to a modern economy.  And such development could only be achieved through an elitist top-down approach that was dependent on the application of modern science, technology and expert knowledge held outside Africa.

The aim of this western model of development was to reproduce the same technological advancements and economic prosperity found in the west.  The driving force behind this approach to development was the neo-liberal belief that such development will trickle down from the top to the bottom of the society for the mutual benefit of all which we are yet to witness.

However, some African countries rejected this capitalist approach to development and instead opted for the socialist conception of development that was practiced in Eastern Europe. With Julius Nyerere and his Ujamaa in Tanzania and Kenneth Kaunda’s Humanism in Zambia, some African leaders espoused their vision of development and adopted socialism as a way of life.

But a common feature of these Africanised visions of development was their state-centric nature.  In order to promote development, the state was recognised as the main actor and played a major role in the ownership and management of natural resources.  And for the state to effectively play this role there emerged a concentration of management functions at the centre and the economy was managed through parastatals.

These state-controlled enterprises had complete jurisdiction in a considerable range of policy issues.  The lack of supervision on these enterprises led to the abuse of power and excessive corruption by the controlling bureaucracies who used them for their personal gains.  The situation was further exacerbated by the absence of accountability, democratic values and institutions.  Public interests, local values, concerns and traditions were neglected because of the concentration of management in the centre.  The emergent African states failed to bequeath the institutions necessary to sustain democratic and effective or good governance.

Most countries failed to implement constitutional rule, as there was a proliferation of military governments in the entire region.  Africa’s inability to embark on a meaningful path to development and achieve a level of well-being deemed satisfactory for a sizeable portion of its population has been attributed to corrupt policy environments, weak African political institutions and poor governance.  In Africa, over forty per cent of the populations are living below the “poverty line,” diseases such as HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are disproportionately rife among the people.  The deteriorating situation in Africa forced the EU and other donor organisations like the World Bank to change their attitudes towards the recipient African countries.  Consequently, there emerged an alternative approach in development thinking and conditionality became a prerequisite for aid.

Conditionality is therefore the reflection of western donor support for an alternative approach to development. It is the compelling insistence of donor countries for compliance by the recipient states. All African countries are recipients of aid and some depend on foreign aid on about twenty- four percent of their national budgets. Donors lost confidence in the national governments because of the deplorable state of development in the region.

The sovereignty of the recipient African countries became increasingly undermined thus bringing into question the communitarian notion of international relations.  On the other hand, donor confidence increased occasioning a re-think of the hitherto prevailing doctrine of non-intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign states.

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