But is it money well spent?


South Africa’s African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund has provided R268 million in the last financial year in foreign aid and assistance to 19 countries, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation says. But the opposition Democratic Alliance wants to know if that is money well spent.

In a written response to a question raised in the National Assembly by a member of opposition on the amount of aid that the government has provided to countries in the last three financial years, International Relations minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane said the bulk of the allocations went to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and to Cuba, the state owned SA News agency reports.
In all, R126 million went to assist the DRC to undertake elections in November last year, while R100 million went to Cuba to help support the country’s economic recovery following the 2008 hurricanes, she said. South Africa’s assistance also included R15 million allocated to the International Atomic Energy Agency for the improvement of veterinary laboratory capacities in Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, DRC and Senegal. A further R13 million was granted to an international diplomatic training programme at the department’s diplomatic academy, which benefited diplomats from South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, Mauritius and Comoros.  
The department also spent R10.6 million to help transport humanitarian assistance donated by Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member states to the people of Somalia. South Africa further spent R5 million for its participation in SADC and AU observer missions during the financial year – for the elections in Seychelles, Zambia and the DRC.
Under the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund, allocations of R327 million were made in the 2009/10 financial year, with the bulk (or R300 million) going to Zimbabwe to contribute towards supporting the country’s economic recovery programme.

The remaining funds were allocated to Sierra Leone (R24 million) to fund 20 Cuban doctors to offer medical services and to the African Research Centre (R3 million), which serves as a focal point for ombudsman offices in Africa. In 2010/11, a total of R4 million went to cover the AU’s Observer Mission to the elections in Sudan. A further R141 million was recommended for other projects, but these were only followed through in the next financial year.

Ian Davidson, the DA’s Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation said in reply that over the last three years, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) has provided in excess of R740 million in development aid through the African Renaissance and International Co-operation Fund (ARF).
“The DA will be requesting feedback from the Minister on how the projects funded through the ARF are monitored and what checks and balances are in place to ensure that the objectives of the fund are achieved through the projects funded,” he says.

Davidson notes that in terms of the African Renaissance and International Co-operation Fund Act, the objectives of the fund are to enhance:
(a)    co-operation between the Republic and other countries, in particular African countries;
(b)    the promotion of democracy and good governance;
(c)    the prevention and resolution of conflict;
(d)    socio-economic development and integration; and
(e)    humanitarian assistance and human resource development.
“In May this year, the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry also approved a R350 million economic assistance package to Cuba – to be funded through the ARF. Cuba has clearly become one of the chief recipients of South African aid. Our government is maintaining a very expensive friendship with Cuba and it is not immediately apparent how this massive investment in Cuba’s economic recovery will promote the objectives of the ARF.
“Given its proximity to South Africa and the potential upside of a prosperous Zimbabwe for regional stability and economic development in the SADC region, the R300 million investment in Zimbabwe’s economy appears to be more sensible. We do, however, need more details on what exactly this R300 million was spent on.
“Questions must also be raised around the R126 million allocated to elections in the DRC. The contribution was most likely aimed at achieving the objective of promoting ‘democracy and good governance’. Most international observers, however, called the November 2011 presidential election in the DRC ‘seriously flawed’,” Davidson said.
“The objectives of the ARF are admirable and as a member of the international community South Africa should certainly contribute to the socio-economic and political development of vulnerable countries. DIRCO must, however, give us assurances that our R740 million investment in international aid has been money well spent.”