Economic Growth

Why we need to overhaul aid

Magdalena Mis
Production Editor, Thomson Reuters Foundation
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It will take 100 years for some of the world’s poorest people to get basic healthcare, sanitation and education services, unless the current approach to aid is radically changed, said a report published on Tuesday.

Development agencies need to be more innovative and flexible, learn lessons from the world of business and shift focus from volume to quality, said a report by the British think-tank the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

“For too many poor people, the question is not whether they will have access to services by 2015 or even 2030, but by 2090 or even later,” Leni Wild, lead author of the report said in a statement.

In 2015, development goals set at the start of the new millennium will expire with many targets – including some on sanitation and health – unmet.

Without changes to development practices, efforts to reach new goals to be set this year will simply repeat the same failed pattern.

For example, Kenya, one of the fastest growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, will not provide sanitation for all of its people for another 150 years.

In Ghana, it will be 76 years until all women have access to a skilled health professional at birth, the report said, citing UNESCO figures.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, boys from healthy urban families will be completing primary school education 65 years before all girls from poor rural families will have the same opportunities.

The current “one size fits all” approach to aid doesn’t recognise political realities or the competence of certain countries to deliver donor-funded aid programmes, said ODI.

Development agencies should learn from failures and take a problem-solving approach well recognised in other sectors such as business start-ups, said ODI.

“Our research … has shown us that projects delivering good results are locally led, politically smart and often employ entrepreneurial techniques,” said Wild. “Looking how aid works is more important than how much to spend.”

On Monday a British parliamentary watchdog urged the government’s aid department to go “beyond aid” and to seek new forms of cooperation with the countries it assists.

This article is published in collaboration with Thomson Reuters Foundation trust.org. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Magdalena Mis joined Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2011 and currently works as a production editor.

Image: Ten-year-old MaryJoy prepares to take a bath before going to school at home in a squatter colony in Quezon city, Metro Manila. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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