Federal Aid to Africa

Michael A. Fletcher writes:

The president has tripled direct humanitarian and development aid to the world’s most impoverished continent since taking office and recently vowed to double that increased amount by 2010 – to nearly $9 billion. The moves have surprised – and pleased – longtime supporters of assistance for Africa, who note that because Bush has received little support from African American voters, he has little obvious political incentive for his interest. “I think the Bush administration deserves pretty high marks in terms of increasing aid to Africa,” said Steve Radelet, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. Bush has increased direct development and humanitarian aid to Africa to more than $4 billion a year from $1.4 billion in 2001, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In real terms, aid to Africa increased by 150% from 2001 to 2006. While this may sound like a large increase, Dean Baker asks us to be this in context:

The current aid level of about $4 billion comes to about $5 per African. That’s helpful, but not exactly a windfall.

Earlier Brad DeLong noted:

What Fletcher never finds space to say is that Bush has raised U.S. aid to Africa per African from $2 per year to $6 per year, and has raised aid to Africa as a share of the Federal budget from 0.08% to 0.17% of federal government spending.

As a percent of GDP, we were spending 0.014% on aid to Africa in 2001 and this year aid to Africa will be 0.03% of GDP. For every $100 in GDP, we send three cents to Africa.

As Dean notes, much of the public thinks that foreign aid comprises a large portion of their tax bill – so putting these numbers in context would be helpful.