Aid – a new model?

August 28th, 2009 | by addis portal |

A project in Ethiopia that helps destitute women become self-reliant by providing them with paid employment has attracted a lot of attention from politicians visiting Addis Ababa for an international get-together.

Alem Abebe is a 14-year-old girl who left home three years ago and made her way to the capital. She now earns 50 US cents a day working at the Abebech Gobena project in one of the city’s slums. It’s not enough to send money home, but enough to survive — and to pay for night school.

But by the World Bank definition, Abebe and other women working at the project are still extremely poor: they earn much less than the daily income of $1.25 or roughly one euro that’s now used to measure poverty.

But the whole point isn’t to hand out money for free: but to help women who would be on the street get a job, an education – and a future.

It’s a departure from previous aid models, which saw large sums handed over by the West to African countries, a system that some say hasn’t really helped the world’s poorest continent.

“The model that’s coming up or that I’m proposing is essentially a model where Africa and Africans become equal partners with the rest of the world, not one where there’s a donor and a recipient where Africans are viewed as secondary citizens,” Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian author, told Reuters Africa Journal.

“This is really an environment where Africans are getting something, they’re getting paid for doing something, for being entrepreneurs, for generating something, for building products, for establishing infrastructure. It’s not the aid model where you get money for nothing,” said Moyo, whose book Dead Aid argues that Western generosity often doesn’t actually help in the long run.

Today the global financial crisis means that Western countries are trying to save their own economies and are no longer prepared to spend so much on aid. So is direct aid still a solution. Or are small projects that generate employment better at fighting poverty?

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