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An abrupt rupture from the current aid architecture is, alas, not desirable. It would signal a declaration of war, aiming to destabilise the powers that be and maybe even, beyond that, the destruction of the state. This strategy has in fact been, and is, used (the blockades on Cuba and Zimbabwe are good examples).

The choice is not between aid as it is or no aid at all. The battle must be waged for radical transformation of the concepts regarding the function of aid, as the South Centre argues. This is primarily an intellectual battle, which should not have boundaries. This struggle is relevant to all those that propose the construction of another world (better), another globalisation, an authentically polycentric world system, respectful of the free (and different) choice of states, nations and peoples on the planet. Let us leave the monopoly on the production of recipes for all to the World Bank and the arrogant technocrats of the ‘North’ to impose.

The moral arguments in favour of debt in the North with respect to the South, giving all its legitimacy to the principle of ‘aid’ (becoming therefore ‘solidarity’) are not without value. More convincing, and politically grounded, are arguments related to the solidarity of peoples faced with the challenges of the future. In particular, the consequences of climate change. The project to create a convention on climate change (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC) is an acceptable starting point to envision financing from opulent countries (responsible in the first instance for the deterioration of the global environment) for programmes that benefit all of the peoples of the planet, and in particular those that are most vulnerable. But precisely because this initiative began within the UN, Western diplomats seek, at the very least, to impede (if not sabotage) its development.

The elaboration of a global vision of aid cannot be delegated to the OECD, the World Bank or the European Union. This responsibility is that of the UN alone. That this organisation is, by its very nature, limited by the monopoly of states, supposedly representing their people, is what it is. Strengthening more direct presence of peoples alongside states deserves attention, but this presence must be conceived to reinforce the UN and is not replaceable by NGO participation (pulled out of a hat) at conferences conceived and managed by the North (and manipulated by Northern diplomats).

I would therefore give priority of support to initiatives taken by ECOSOC (the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations) in 2005 for the creation of a Development Cooperation Forum (DCF). This initiative began the construction of authentic partnerships within a polycentric global perspective. The initiative is, as one can imagine, very badly received by diplomats of the triad.

But we have to go further and dare to reach a ‘red line’. Not to ‘reforming’ the World Bank, the WTO and the IMF. Not to limiting ourselves to denouncing the dramatic consequences of their past and present politics. But to proposing alternative institutions, positively defining their tasks and drawing up their institutional framework.

The debate on alternative aid (united) must immediately eliminate some subjects retained by the DAC under the rubric of the ODA which, in reality, is not aid from North to South but, rather, the reverse.

At the top of the list must be concessional loans provided at below-market rates. This is merely aggressive trade policy implemented by triad states (somewhat like dumping from the East) from which Northern exporters are the main beneficiaries.

Debt reduction, decided upon almost charitably (as is evidenced by the diplomatic jargon that surrounds these decisions), should not figure under the rubric of ‘aid’. Instead and as a legitimate response, not only morally, to this issue, an audit should be conducted of the debt in question (private and public, from the side of the recipient and the donor). Debts that are recognised as immoral (for instance those that are associated with corrupt operations in one way or another), illegitimate (for instance those which thinly disguise political support, as was the case for the apartheid regime of South Africa), or usurious (by their interest rates, decided upon unilaterally by ‘markets’, by the full repayment of their capital and beyond it), should be cancelled, and their victims (debt-owing countries) compensated as a result for what has been paid beyond what was owed. A UN Commission should be created to elaborate the international right, worthy of the name. Of course, the triad diplomats do not want to hear any proposal to this effect.


Alternative aid is inseparable from the conceptualisation of alternative development. Although this is not the subject of our thesis here, it is nevertheless useful and necessary to reflect on some important principles of development so as to give clarity to the proposals for alternative aid that follow. It is to these important principles that I will now turn.

A diversified system of production

Development demands a diversified system of production, which in the first instance engages on the road to industrialisation. The tenacious refusal to recognise this necessity in sub-tropical Africa is remarkable. How else can one comprehend the insane industrial drift that should be laughable (which country in Africa is currently ‘over-industrialised’?), unfortunately taken up by people in the alternative globalisation movement who are unaware of the real impact of the Bandung era? I suspect, actually, some racism for the peoples in question, within this proposal. On the contrary, is it not plain that it is precisely those countries engaged on the ‘insane’ path who are today ‘emerging’ countries (China, Korea, and others)?

The incontrovertible industrial perspective does not exclude the call to international capital. Complex and diverse partnership formulae between state and local private capital (when it exists) or foreign capital are certainly admissible, inevitable, probably. But, it only makes sense when liberalism is excluded, as it reduces the creation of ‘attractive conditions for transnational companies’ as the WTO and aid agencies recommend. Real partnership in strategic decision making, control of re-exported profits, must accompany industrialisation strategies.

Diversification (including industrialisation) incontrovertibly demands the construction of infrastructures that do not exist in these countries. This has become indispensable for the survival of these countries.

Social infrastructures

There is no development without quality education, from the base to the summit, and without a population in good health. Here there is potential for financial and technical aid that is indisputably positive, manifesting solidarity. The eradication of pandemics, of AIDS, are evident examples.

Regional cooperation

Diversification and industrialisation will demand the construction of forms of adequate regional cooperation. Continental countries can without a doubt do without it but those of ‘medium’ population size (from 50 million upwards) can initiate the process alone, knowing that they will rapidly reach terrain that they will only pass through with regional cooperation.

The form that regional cooperation takes must reinvent itself to be coherent with the objectives of the type of development spelt out here. Regional ‘common markets’, which dominate the institutions in place currently (when they exist and function) are not in line with this development, as they are conceived as blocs constitutive of liberal globalisation (Amin 2005).

Agriculture at the centre of alternative development

Rural and agricultural development must be at the centre of the definition of a strategy for another development, not just presently but even more strongly in a long succession of advanced phases of development.

It is not enough here to proclaim the priority of agriculture as many do. The type of agriculture must also be defined. Coherent alternative development with diversification as its objective imposes the translation of some grand principles into concrete policy, such as giving priority to food producers within food sovereignty (as defined by Vía Campesina) and not food security frameworks.

The food security approach, promoted by the World Bank and retained by the Paris and Accra Declarations, is the origin of the ongoing food crisis. This approach implies not only that farmers produce more to first feed themselves (the majority of under-nourished people are rural), but also to produce the excess necessary to satisfy the urban demand. This is obviously part of a ‘modernisation’ policy certainly different from the models of modernisation to which farmers of the developed world today were submitted.

Agricultural policy founded on the maintenance of rural populations

As equal access as possible to land and the correct means to exploit it, commands this conception of farmer agriculture. This implies agrarian reform, strengthening of cooperation, adequate macroeconomic policies (credit, provision of input location, commercialisation of products). These measures are different to those put in place historically by capitalism in Europe and North America, which was founded on the appropriation of land, its reduction into a merchandise, a rapid social differentiation of peasantry and the rapid expulsion of ‘useless’ rural surplus.

The option recommended by the dominant system, not put into question by the Paris and Accra Declarations, is situated at the antipodes of advanced principles. Founded on financial profitability, short-term productivity (rapidly increasing production at the cost of accelerated expulsion of farmers in surplus), it responds certainly well to trans-national interests of agribusiness and of an associated new class of farmers, but not to that of popular classes and the nation.

Questioning the globalisation of production

On these important questions, we can only refer to Jacques Berthelot’s remarkable work, which provides the best analysis of the catastrophes that liberalisation has produced, and continues to produce, the best arguments notably concerning the fundamental asymmetries that characterise the Cotonou Agreement, the so-called projects of economic partnership, the debates on the subvention of exports from the North and more generally the negotiations at the heart of the WTO. The rebirth of farmers’ movements in francophone West Africa, organised within the Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organisations of West Africa, a stakeholder in our debates, bears witness that the option for the farmers’ path is necessarily in conflict with the dominant productivist options in the circuit organised by the OECD, the WTO and the EU. The alternative passes by national policy of construction/reconstruction of national stabilisation funds and support for the concerned products through the implementation of common international funds for base products, permitting an effective alternative reorganisation of international markets of agricultural products. I would also refer here to the propositions made by Jean Pierre Boris.

Understanding external relations

The alternative development framework provided here imposes a true mastering of economic relations with the exterior, amongst them the abandonment of the ‘free trade’ system claimed as ‘regulation of the market’, to the benefit of national and regional systems of control of rates of foreign exchange. Beyond the impossible reform of the IMF, the answers to the challenges invite one to imagine the putting in place of regional monetary funds, articulated in regards to a new system of global monetary regulation, which the current crisis makes more necessary than ever. ‘Reform’ of the IMF doesn’t respond to these necessities. In a more general sense, the understanding of external relations, which isn’t self-sufficient, defines the contours of what I have qualified as the ‘delinking’, to be a constitutive element, incontrovertibly of the emergence of a negotiated globalisation. This development equally demands control of national natural resources. Alternative development is founded on the principle of priority given to national and regional internal markets and in this framework to the markets that respond in the first instance to the expansion of the demands of the popular classes, not to the global market. This is what I call an auto-centred development.


* Aid to Africa: Redeemer or Coloniser? is available to order from the Pambazuka Press website. Pambazuka News readers can get 20% off the recommended retail price of £12.95 – simply enter 95641284 as the discount code when ordering online.
* Samir Amin has been the director of IDEP (the United Nations African Institute for Planning), the director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal, and a co-founder of the World Forum for Alternatives.
* This article appears as 'Aid for development' in Aid to Africa.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.