Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I want to help you – The problem with foreign aid to Ghana

Let’s assume you’re a young man, living in Accra, college educated and married to your college sweetheart with two kids ages 7 and 9. You make about $1,000 per month and your wife brings in about $1,000 from her job at a local bank. Both of you are in middle management with the potential to move into senior management in a year or two or three. A rich man comes to your house and says this:

“Listen up Mr. Kofi Ghana, I want you help you. I want your wife to stop working. I want to provide $5,000 a month for shopping, cocktail parties, and spa treatments for her. I’ll provide a nice luxury car with a driver for her daily trips to town. She doesn’t have to cook anymore. Here’s a gourmet chef. I’m moving your kids into the most exclusive international private school in Accra. They get their own driver and several maids and they don’t have to do any household chores. I’ll pay for all this but I’ll pull the money in 12-24 months. I will give you 3-6 months’ notice”

Question: As a husband and the head of your family will you accept this offer?

As a husband my concerns will be:

  1. How will we manage after my wife and kids get used to blowing $5,000 per month for 2 years on my $1,000 per month salary?
  2. My wife will clearly miss the opportunity to get promoted at work being gone for 2 year. Even if she didn’t get promoted she could have saved her salary as capital to start a business or something.
  3. What about the kids? They won’t ever get to make their own bed or wash dishes or help with cleaning.
  4. How will the kids adjust to making new friends in the local government public school after rubbing shoulders with kids of the rich and famous for 2 years?

This is exactly how foreign aid works in Ghana. USAID is notorious for such behavior. They don’t come to Ghana to make us better our capabilities. There are countless examples of this. The problem is that Ghanaian organizations and government institutions are so conditioned to wait for help that they take anything masquerading as help from foreigners.

Daily Graphic December 11, 2010


The export of pineapples from Ghana has declined by almost 60 per cent over the last five years because of a global shift of preference. The Project Coordinator of the Export Marketing and Quality Awareness Project (EMQAP) at the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Mr Mawuli Agboka, said this during a tour of George Fields Limited and the Gold Coast Fruits Limited, both pineapple-growing companies. “One of the main reasons accounting for the problem is the shift in demand for the Smooth Cayenne to the MD2 cultivar by European consumers and that has rendered most farmers in the country bankrupt,” he said. The tour was to share information on the performance of the MD2 pineapple fertilizer for farmers and exporters. Mr Agboka said the country had initiated steps to increase pineapple production and exports by 25 per cent next year. As part of the remedy farmers are being trained in a new technology on how to increase production and improve yields, as well as investment in machinery and cold storage facilities, among others.

The news article from the Daily Graphic above is a typical example. Don’t believe anything you read. The truth is that the US propped up Ghana’s pineapple industry artificially for 2-3 years. When they left with their highly paid “experts” and “resources”, Ghana’s pineapple exports dropped by 60%.

Here is how I believe the USAID could have helped and been part of the solutions:

  1. Give soft loans directly to pineapple farmers and associated businesses with some suggestions on how to improve their businesses.
  2. OR stay in Washington DC! Don’t come to Ghana all at because after you leave thing are usually worse than before you ever came to “help”.