In an interview titled “A COMPLETE WASTE OF MONEY THAT SUCCEEDS PRIMARILY AT KEEPING WESTERNERS EMPLOYED”, Michael Maren talks about aid agencies in Africa, based on his two decades of firsthand experience:
I think if all [aid agencies] went out of business today, there would be very few people who would be any worse for it, and a great number of people would be better off. People know what’s best for themselves. They can do what they need to do. In most of these countries – I’m thinking of Africa – people are not developing economically because they’re not being allowed to. They’re being oppressed politically. If you look at the development that’s taken place in Asia in the past 15 or 20 years, none of that can be attributed to foreign aid.
He talks about the political co-opting of aid: agencies depend on the support of the local government in order to do their work, and sometimes that support comes with some pretty compromising conditions. Aid agencies end up unintentionally but actively supporting oppressive and corrupt regimes.
He finishes with a blunt answer to a blunt question:
In the end, is there any role for NGOs or charitable organizations in the developing world at all?