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Africa Needs More than Economic Help

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July 12, 2005

Much more than financial aid will be needed to address the critical needs of African countries, according to scholars who took part in a major international conference at the Northwestern University Program of African Studies.

Two months before the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, committed last week to a $50 billion African aid package, 40 government officials, scholars and activists met at Northwestern to outline what is needed to complement a massive infusion of funds to strengthen the economies of African nations.

In a summary of issues explored by the conference , the Program of African Studies said emphasis must be placed on improving the quality and effectiveness of aid and on improvement  in Africa’s “profound governance and institutional weaknesses.”

A brief summary of the conference’s findings:

• The participation of countries in the global economy must be increased. Africa’s exports and its share of foreign direct investment each amount to 1.5 percent. Financial aid cannot substitute indefinitely for the revenues that should be mobilized internally.

• African countries have lost the skills and values of professionals who have moved to other countries or have left public service early because of low salaries and other factors.

• Behaviors and practices that undermine African institutions must be transformed. To counter the misuse of financial resources, greater emphasis must be placed on non-state organizations and institutions while encouraging innovative ways to improve governance and institution building.

The full statement, “Smart Aid for Africa,” issued after the conference is available at: http://www.northwestern.edu/african-studies/AGD.html

For more information on the conference or to contact experts who participated, call the Program of African Studies at 847-491-7323.

The Northwestern University Program of African Studies is the oldest African Studies program in the United States. It enjoys a unique legacy of sponsoring research on Africa, training students in African Studies, and facilitating the involvement of Northwestern’s departments and schools in the African continent.

Richard Joseph, John Evans Professor of Political Science, is director of the Program of African Studies. Joseph has devoted his scholarly career to the study of politics and governance in Africa with a special focus on democratic transitions, state building and state collapse, and conflict resolution.

Joseph directed the African Governance Program at the Carter Center (1988-1994) and coordinated elections missions in Zambia (1991), Ghana (1992), and peace initiatives in Liberia (1991-1994). He has been a longtime member of the Council of Foreign Relations. Joseph is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards including a Rhodes Scholarship, a Kent Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2002-03, he held visiting fellowships at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the National Endowment for Democracy. He was a Fulbright Scholar in France and a Fulbright Professor in Nigeria.