UK hands Lusaka the purse strings

10th June 2005 at 01:00
A chief difference between the primary reading programme that Britain has helped introduce to Zambia and projects funded by some other countries is that it has been run in very close collaboration with Lusaka, which will shortly take over funding it and replicate it across schools nationwide.

Indeed, it is likely to be the last education project with a specifically British stamp on it because the UK is moving towards a "sector-wide" approach to giving aid, where it and the Scandinavian countries put money for education and health into pooled funds that go directly into the Zambian government's budget. In this way the aid is used to support the development of Lusaka's capacity to run its own services. Aid workers act as advisers to programmes rather than running their own.

This discrete approach contrasts sharply with that of Japan, which brought in Japanese engineers to rebuild several roads into Lusaka and painted Japanese flags on signs on the roundabouts.

The United States also prefers to have greater control over its aid. This is typified by the President's Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (Pepfar), which has provided a much-welcomed $85 million for Zambia, but with strict conditions that at least a third of HIV prevention programmes should focus on sexual abstinence before marriage. It also insists that only certain approved drugs, usually manufactured by American companies, can be bought with the money instead of the far cheaper, yet equally effective, generic drugs produced in places such as India.

Gregory Chikwanka of the Civil Society for Poverty Reduction, which represents businesses, churches, charities and other non-governmental institutions in Zambia, says he had hoped more countries would follow the UK's lead and move away from "tied aid" to a more trusting approach.

Britain's cultural influence, however, is set to stay - because of the extraordinary popularity of English football. "I went back to my village for the first time in 11 years," Gregory Chikwanka says, "and everyone had Arsenal shirts."

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