A ridiculously small amount of US aid, far less than 1% of its total aid budget, is spent in sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest place on Earth.
A lot of the United States’ aid funds go to Pakistan, to Israel, to countries that assist in the US's strategic interests. In that respect, foreign aid is, as it always was, a tool of foreign policy.
In stark contrast to Britain, which brought a wealth of diplomatic and technical know-how to post-colonial Africa, and France that bought influence throughout the continent with generous financial support, for most of the 20th century the United States brought only guns.
The US bears a historical responsibility for numerous regional and tribal conflicts that have destabilized countries such as Angola, Liberia, Congo and Somalia. Dictators have received billions of dollars of military aid and there are enough small arms in the continent for one in 20 people to have their own personal weapon. (In the two years September 2001-2003, the amount spent on military training for African officers has increased by over $2 million to $11.1m. )
Manganese for steel, cobalt for chrome and alloys, gold, fluorspar and germanium for industrial diamonds - Africa remains a treasure trove for the world's sophisticated economies. The US continues to rely on Africa for raw materials, and for American companies there are tremendous profits in the current trade agreements that continue the age-old exploitation of the continent by the rich world.
The trade and aid agreements reflect the continuing imbalance between Africa and the West.
"There is obviously poverty reduction rhetoric but when you look closely at the way aid is tied to contracts for US companies you can see that it is a different way of benefiting the domestic economy. It is being done for the benefit of US business and not for the poor of the countries receiving the aid," says Peter Hardstaff, head of policy at the UK-based World Development Movement.
[From article written by Torcuil Crichton in The Sunday Herald of Scotland]