Aid Dependency, the Scourge of Nigeria

Aid Dependency, the Scourge of Nigeria

The word ‘aid’ has different definitions applicable in different circumstances.  It can be defined as “financial or material help given to a country or an area in need”; It can also be “a source of help of assistance”. Aid can come in different varieties or forms; donations to NGOs or charities, aid agencies, medical aid, development aid, fundraising events for causes, philanthropy, and foreign aid, just to name a few. The main concept of ‘aiding’ is that there is a person in a better off position capable of offering assistance; and the recipient in a worse off position in need of the assistance.

There are many benefits one can derive from either aiding or receiving aid. From the perspective of ‘aiding’, research has shown that there are psychological benefits people experience from giving. There are significantly higher levels of happiness and healthiness in people who participate in charitable giving in comparison to people who do not. Research by the National Institute of Health (NIH) reveals that giving people/ donating money leads to a reaction known as the “helper’s high”, where the mesolimbic system is triggered; a system associated with the feelings of reward and reinforcement. From the perspective of receiving aid, the benefits are virtually endless especially in Nigeria and other African countries. Aid interventions (mostly foreign) have led to massive improvements in healthcare, food supply/production, infrastructure, education, trade, and the economy especially after the Nigerian civil war. In summary, it has arguably led to advancements in the development of the country.

Aid in its most genuine form is hardly ever seen as a bad thing but there are certain common characteristics associated with many recipients of aid, one of which is aid dependency. The word dependency is described as “the state of relying on or being controlled by someone or something else”. The stand-out words in that definition are “relying” and “controlled”. From the definitions of the individual words, ‘aid dependency’ can then be deduced as the state of being in need and relying or being controlled by financial or material help. From a national perspective, a significant number of aid recipients are less economically developed countries (LEDCs) and despite the aid influx, are still plagued with rampant poverty and evident underdevelopment. Nigeria in the early 2000s, was receiving approximately $1.638 billion but there were few unsustainable corresponding development indicators. Scholars even argue that the influx of aid had an adverse effect on Nigeria’s economic growth. On the other side of the debate, scholars argue that to completely dismiss the effects aid had on the Nigeria economy is wrong because evidence shows otherwise. What should be argued rather is that the qualitative impact of aid on various demographics of Nigerians is minimal.

What leads to aid dependency?

Aid dependency occurs when a significant portion of country’s governmental spending is funded by donors. The influencing factors of aid dependency are the length of the donation period and the intensity of the donation. The main cause of country dependency is when aid is used by a country as a long-term solution or plan rather than an interim fix for a problem.  This has severe inhibiting effects on development and progress of the country.

Negative effects of aid dependency

The main disadvantage of aid dependency is how it limits development. Though countries like Ghana and Mozambique have been able to reduce aid dependency from 47% to 27% and experience exponential growth and development, the majority of recipient LEDCs have remained stagnant or boast of meagre incremental development. The presence of foreign aid in terms of products can lead to a sharp decline in the demand for locally produced items, inevitable inflation and end with the decline of those industries due to lack of incentives. Aid also makes governments lazy and unmotivated to properly utilize their countries natural resources because what is required at that point is provided for through aid.  Aid can lead to corruption and misappropriation in the recipient countries especially in the case of bilateral aid, where the aid is not targeted at a cause but given to grant general relief in the country. This reason has caused many developed donor countries to either establish their own agencies within the country or to have a say in the governmental distribution of the aid. This most times causes political interference and the donor countries can influence government decision undermining its independence. Foreign aid donations are one of the foremost ways of pushing foreign policy objectives. The donor countries most times give strategically chosen and politically motivate donations. It can be a form of reward given for compliances or it can be withdrawn consequently for being antagonistic. This is most plausible in cases where the country is rich in abundant natural resources or strategically location. The problem with this if left unchecked creates a puppet-master scenario where the recipient dances to the tune of the latter.

How to prevent aid dependency

It takes a conscious effort by the two parties to prevent or cease existing aid dependency. From the recipient side, the recipient must ensure that the aid is not used as a long-term plan. They need to ensure that the donated aid is not interfering with government decisions. When this is the case, there are alternative means of raising funds for the activities of the country. A good example of this is Rwanda. The country in 2012, turned to international financial markets with a 10-year bond sale when the UK’s government withdrew its financial aid given to the country. From the donor side, the donor can provide structure and planning on how the aid provided can be best utilised to produce the best results. Taiwan is a good example where aid given to the country was strategically used to boost the economy by building infrastructural capacity-docks, factories and railways.

To conclude, this article is not an exhaustive piece on aid dependency but one that provides basic information on the issue. The problems of being a dependent nation go beyond the detrimental effects it has on the country as a whole, but it also trickles down to the citizens. When handouts are constantly being given out, it makes people indolent and unaspiring. It becomes an acceptable ideology the citizens adapt, and they see the government and aid agencies as ‘saviours’ providing a solution. The saviour mentality breeds overreliance, stagnancy and many social vices. A country with thoroughly planned investments in infrastructure, education and development even down to the grassroot communities is a country that encourages an ideology of growth and innovation of the citizens. This is what Nigeria needs to eliminate the scourge of aid dependency both as a nation and as individuals within the nation.

  1. Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2018). aid | Definition of aid in English by Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug. 2018].
  2. Akwagyiram, A. (2013). How can Africa move away from aid dependence?. [online] BBC News. Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug. 2018].
  3. Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2018). dependency | Definition of dependency in English by Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug. 2018].
  4. Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2018). dependency | Definition of dependency in English by Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug. 2018].
  5. Stanford, V. (2015). Aid Dependency: The Damage of Donation. [online] This Week in Global Health. Available at: [Accessed 10 Aug. 2018].
  6. Van Der Linden, S. (2011). The Helper’s High. [ebook] Available at: [Accessed 20 Jul. 2018].

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