Thoughts on aid

I should have had the crocodile kebab. After all, I’ve never tasted crocodile before. But, at $35, this seemed a little extravagant. Instead I opted for a pizza (prosciutto and funghi), which was not only pricey – $25 – but also rather disappointing. I had been looked forward to a decent pizza, too.

I was supping at Da Vinci Lodge – one of the most opulent, and needless to say pricey, hotels – in Juba.

The view over the Nile was fantastic, dark storm clouds were slowly gathering in the distance. Nearby, to my left, a group of khawadjas were incessently chattering over ludicrously expensive bottles of beer, about work trips they had gone on or trips they were about to go on. I tuned into these conversations, and then quickly tuned out.

It all depressed me. It reminded me too much of the expat life I saw in Khartoum, and which I rapidly tried to escape from, preferring to mingle with the Sudanese rather than the UN / NGO workers.

All week, because of the research I am doing for the next edition of our guidebook, I have been trying to meet expats here. And, now that I had come across a bunch, I wanted to be anywhere else.

I finished my pizza a little too rapidly – glancing anxiously over my soldier from time to time at the darkening sky on the other side of the Nile, which was being rapidly borne on the wind in my direction. Since boda-bodas (motorcycles) are the order of the day in Juba, rather than taxis, one doesn’t want to be doing too much travelling in the middle of a tropical storm.

By the time I got outside, it was starting to spit and a real gale was picking. I glanced back over my shoulders at the foreigners, still chatting away about things I couldn’t really understand, and found that I was undeniably glad to be getting away. I walked to the main road, and hailed the first boda-boda driver that didn’t look as though he was going to get me killed (my judgement may have been lacking here, though, because it was one of the hairier rides I’ve had so far) – and made it just before the heavens opened.

On the way back, I found myself wondering what would become of Juba if the aid money left? Surely the city would implode? It seems that there is nothing here besides aid money – and an awful lot of aid money at that. Just look at the price of accommodation in Da Vinci Lodge. Bed and breakfast for a miimum of $150 a night. Cottages for $4000 a month.

All of this led, quite logically, on to my next thought: at what point should the aid money be pulled out of Juba? Because, surely, aid should only be temporary – and the real measure of its success is how sustainable development is.

Yesterday, I picked up a copy of Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo and started aimlessly flicking through it. This is a book that purports to show how aid has damaged, rather than helped, Africa – and how there should be a better way. This is also a view that, to an extent, I share.

But I am interested to go further and to consider, if you have a place like South Sudan that has been so dependent on aid for so longer (and which has, unfortunately, become very much an aid economy), how can you suddenly cut off aid money without doing some serious damage. It is a question that invites some serious thought.

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3 Responses to “Thoughts on aid”

  1. William Says:

    Are you just asking a question or do you have an answer?

  2. William Says:

    And who are you asking it to?

  3. blakerig Says:

    No not providing an answer. Simply raising a question and inviting discussion. This blog has few answers, many questions…

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