By Sara Hooker
Sara is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Sara below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Dambisa Moyo, author of the book Dead Aid, made headlines for three reasons.  The first two were quite simply that she was a young black woman talking about foreign aid, an area whose academia and discussion is dominated by middle-aged white men.  The third reason she made headlines was that she advocated for no aid at all. She argued that the way aid was given to countries worsened their condition rather than improved it.

This is a point of view the US will never endorse, simply because inherent in the American psyche is a commitment to improve the human condition elsewhere. And it does this in vast quantities, committing $21 billion in 2005. However, even the US is starting to adjust to the changing face of aid. Barack Obama has acknowledged the need to be much more careful about how aid money is spent.

His first visit to the African continent was carefully chosen to be Ghana, a success story on the continent with relatively little corruption and a stable democracy. His white house convention of young African leaders on the 13th of August was praised as emphasizing new approaches to the continent as he warned that ‘sometimes the older leaders get into old habits.’ This all sends a strong message that the era of signing blank checks to corrupt regimes is over. Or is it?

US foreign aid is still crippled by its politics. In the Middle East, most obviously Iraq and Afghanistan it endorses corrupt regimes and fuels ethnic tensions by misappropriating aid. In Africa and Latin America it lacks the efficiency of Chinese infrastructure projects which have been praised for quickly building schools, roads and hospitals (although China’s generosity is ethically questionable).    

So what is the role of young people in this changing landscape? If the youth want a stronger voice they need to force the discussion from the boardrooms of huge inefficient multinational and government organizations to small NGO’s with innovative ideas and room for incorporating young people. The solution is not no aid as Moyo claims, but rather more intelligent aid, with more access for us the youth.

My name is Sara Hooker and I go to school at Carleton College, Minnesota. I am an international student here, originally Irish, but I spent most of my childhood in Southern Africa; in Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland. I plan to major in International relations but also enjoy economics. I am really loving my time in the U.S and hope to visit at least 15 states by the time I graduate. I am currently on 5!  🙂