Expensive Poverty: Why aid fails and how it can work

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Africa today receives consistently one-third of the total annual flow of official development assistance of some $150 billion. Yet the average per capita income of sub-Saharan Africans has increased by just $350 since 1990, to just over $1,650 today. Put differently, donors have spent more than a thousand dollars per person over 30 years to lift the incomes of Africans by just $350.

There must be a better way to do this.

This is the central message of a new book – Expensive Poverty – which is focused on finding ways to fix the poverty pandemic, written by Greg Mills, the director of Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation.

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Africa today receives consistently one-third of the total annual flow of official development assistance of some $150 billion. Yet the average per capita income of sub-Saharan Africans has increased by just $350 since 1990, to just over $1,650 today. Put differently, donors have spent more than a thousand dollars per person over 30 years to lift the incomes of Africans by just $350.

There must be a better way to do this.

This is the central message of a new book – Expensive Poverty – which is focused on finding ways to fix the poverty pandemic, written by Greg Mills, the director of Johannesburg-based Brenthurst Foundation.

During a career of research and advice spanning 40 African countries, Dr Mills has emerged as among the foremost analysts of economic and political development on the continent. He has been engaged as an advisor by some two dozen African countries. There is arguably no-one better placed to examine a topic so critical to development. Expensive Poverty seeks to answer the trillion-dollar question:

Why have decades of spending had such a small impact on improving the lives of the poor?

Instead, Africa has very little to show for this money. Most of it has been consumed, some by the donors themselves, much of it by local governments and elites.

Whatever the area of aid expenditure – humanitarian, governance, military, development – the overall intention should be the same: To try and reach the point that aid is no longer necessary.

Expensive Poverty lays out just how to get there.