Will More Foreign Aid End Global Poverty?

ByABC News
May 12, 2006, 4:41 PM

May 12, 2006 — -- This myth may really rattle your brain. Lots of well-meaning people believe foreign aid will cure poverty.

U2's lead singer, Bono, stops almost every concert to tell his fans that Western governments can end poverty.

"We have the resources, we have the know-how to end extreme poverty," he said last year in Chicago.

Angelina Jolie visited a model village in Africa to promote what she believes would be possible if our governments would just give more. The village she visited is the creation of Jeffrey Sachs, director of the U.N. Millennium Project and author of the best-selling "The End of Poverty." He's also America's most vocal promoter of giving more foreign aid to Africa.

"How can we go another day when 20,000 children are going to be dying of these stupid reasons that are utterly preventable?" he asked.

Sachs helped persuade Western governments to double foreign aid to Africa to $50 billion. And the people in his model village were thrilled about getting all this help from Sachs and Jolie.

But journalist June Arunga doesn't think this will really help in the long run.

"You look like an angel if you have all these poor people behind you," she said. "Of course, they'll be smiling. Who wouldn't be smiling if they've just been given stuff? But that's not real life."

Arunga grew up in Kenya, and she wonders why Americans waste money on foreign aid to Africa when many politicians just steal it.

"Africa is full of governments that steal money," she said.

Billions of dollars are hidden by African politicians in Swiss banks or spent on mansions, lavish trips and luxury cars.

Even food aid gets stolen. When "20/20" went to Kenya a few weeks ago, Kenyan farmers said bags of food aid from their government never arrived.

"You find most of it is getting lost on the way," farmer Joseph Nthome said.Lost, but then found ... for sale in street markets.

So much is stolen because we rely primarily on governments to administer foreign aid, and many African governments are kleptocracies.