Food vs. aid : undertaking sustainable development in Africa

Degree Name

MA in International and Intercultural Management


When I began my capstone, I was working at the Corporate Council on Africa as Trade Missions Director. The Corporate Council on Africa is a non-partisan, non-profit membership organization of over 200 American corporations and individuals dedicated to improving relationships between African and African individuals and organizations by creating educational, cultural, and commercial exchange opportunities (See appendix). As Trade Missions Director I was responsible for the recruitment, organization and supervision of three annual trade missions to Africa, two countries per Trade Mission. I was "selling" economic opportunities in Africa to American organizations. I had to convince them that despite all the risks involved in investing in Africa, their potential profits and other rewards were worth the many risks. As part of my job, I was personally involved in many partnerships and joint ventures merging the US with Africa. It was a rewarding experience, however I had another conflicting side of me tugging at the ethical view. I felt we were helping the richest of Africa get richer and ignoring the poorest of Africa, as they grew poorer. I had frequent discussions with my colleagues and members of the Corporate Council on Africa about the pros and cons of trade and aid. Most of my colleagues at work were convinced that foreign aid to Africa was a "waste of tax payer's money" and the only way to improve Africa's future was by Africa becoming a trade and investment partner. I was definitely pro-trade (I had to be to "market" my Trade Missions), but I was also convinced that aid worked. I had spent three years living in West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer working closely with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs). I felt foreign aid is more targeted to assist the rural areas, therefore reaching out to the poor, whereas trade is obviously only going to attract the wealthier individuals that have something to invest.

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