Sub-Saharan Africa is a region prone to harsh weather. Somalia’s climate is one of principally desert conditions66. In July 2011 the country was declared to be in a state of famine after a serious drought had consumed the area67. The U. S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 29,000 children under the age of 5 died in 90 days in southern Somalia68, and that 3. 2 million Somalis were, and still are, in need of immediate lifesaving assistance.
One obvious economic effect of famine is that food must be imported. This is costly, and will decrease the changes of balancing the trade budget that year. Crops and livestock must also be replaced, since they will have been unable to survive the ruthless conditions. This is particularly significant in Third World countries, since the majority if their income is based upon the trading of primary products. Demand for food will soar, raising the equilibrium price and causing inflation to rocket.
This, in turn, will cause an increase in corruption as those in a position to take aid and disperse it between their clan will do so. Famine is not only costly for the government and agonizing for the populace, but it drastically slows the growth of a country. Children are too ill to go to school, disease is spread quicker and the government must spend money (which could have been invested elsewhere) attainting food for its population. Aid: In absolute terms, Sub-Saharan Africa’s debt is small69.
This explains the lack of interest in the West in dealing with its economic repercussions; in global terms its debt is so modest it is a threat to no-one except the Africans themselves. Citizens of the West may go to bed with a clear conscience, thinking that the $15 billion they gave as a response to the debt crisis was enough, however relative to the scale of the debt (nearly $1500 billion) this was quite insignificant, little more than 1%. Only $4 in every $10 of global aid goes to low-income countries – only three of the top ten recipients of the European Commission aid are even African70.
Aid has been deemed as unsuccessful on the whole. One reason for this may be the lukewarm reaction the West has had to calls for aid, as shown above. In 1992 the OECD agreed that they should give 0. 7% of their gross national income each annum as aid, yet only the Nordic countries, the Netherlands and Luxemburg ever met this target71. More evidence came in 2008, when the nongovernmental organisation DATA reported that only 14% of additional funds pledged by the G-8 nations had actually been provided72.
Being promised aid and then not receiving it is hard for the African authorities, as it complicated planning; they are not sure when the aid is coming and where it is going. Another reason could be that different aid organisations are failing to work together effectively. By 2003, there were thought to be 39,729 branches of international charities across Africa, an excessive amount. What’s more, charities have their headquarters thousands of miles away, pursuing overlapping objectives and making few attempts to coordinate with each other.
Duplicated projects will have little benefit to the receiving countries. Even plans which have been put into place, such as the Brady Plan, have been relatively unsuccessful73; resources were disproportionally taken from the poor and near poor. The bank’s response has been half-hearted, with the IMF and World Bank revealing split personalities – they champion Millennium development goals in speeches, and approve programmes which not achieve them, whilst privately acknowledging that they cannot be met74. Aid specific to Somalia has also been ineffective.
Analysts may look at the correlation between provision of aid to the country and its rates of economic growth, and finding no discernible connection75. When Somalia was in Italian control more than $40 million was spent to build a brand new hospital equipped with sophisticated machinery and operating rooms, in the south of Mogadishu76. Since the Somalis were unable to run it, the hospital was left derelict, falling to pieces. The Italian government paid $95 million for a fertilizer plant in Mogadishu that never became operational.
They even established a University of Somalia–despite the fact that 98 percent of the population was illiterate. More modern examples of aid failure include the food aid during famine. Between 50% and 85% of emergency aid went straight into the hands of wealthy politicians, and when it did reach their public it was for a premium77. Although the UN humanitarian intervention in Somalia sought to curb these practices, it was with limited success78. Aid is no longer available for much of the Somali population since the country is deemed too dangerous for many charities to work there.
Whilst it hasn’t slowed down the growth of Somalia, it also hasn’t helped boost it (despite having the potential to), and therefore can be considered a factor hindering Somali GDP. Conclusion: Somalia’s growth is being mired by a combination of factors. The country has now reached the stage where the majority of its population is in a poverty trap. For example, let’s take Mara (a stereotypical Somali citizen). She is young and optimistic, but lives permanently close to the edge of crisis. She has no assets and rents a small shack by the month, with her small baby boy.
This week she decided she can buy a jerry can of clean water, as work has been good; this is much healthier for her and her son, but it means sacrificing some food. Earlier in the year she had tried to put money aside to save future school fees for her baby, but she caught Malaria and was forced to buy medicine, depleting the savings. In theory, a bed net preventing malaria would been more useful, as it would save on future medical costs and help ensure she’s fit to work, but this is too expensive.
And her problems go on… Mara’s life is a combination of many regrettable factors. She received little education as a child because going to school was too expensive. This means that she can only get a job doing basic tasks such as cutting crops for a local farmer. This leads to primary product dependency within Somalia, which will remain detrimental to the country as long as the dependency theory exists. All of these problems are then exacerbated by the ongoing war and black market in Somalia.
Lack of education is likely to be what is holding the country’s GDP growth back the most, as statistics prove it contributes up to 25% of GDP growth, and is the instigator of other factors holding back the measure. Although it seems unlikely that Somalia has the capacity to change this anytime soon, it is a problem which has solutions. Investment in schools, and getting both girls and boys to attend will have huge long term benefits. In essence, Somalia must stop sacrificing the future to salvage the present.
BBC. (2011). Somalia Profile. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news