- An overview of development cooperation partnerships between African and donor countries had revealed that Lesotho has ended up as the most "undeservedly overlooked" country, according to an analysis by the journal 'African Future'. Despite good governance, relative democracy and heavy needs due to the AIDS pandemic and droughts induced by global warming, only Ireland sees Lesotho as a major development partner.
In an editorial in a February issue of the weekly development cooperation journal 'African Future', the editor concludes that Lesotho is surprisingly "overlooked" by donors. The editorial commented the findings done while preparing a special "Who is Who" issue, looking into each donor's activities in Africa and also at each recipient country. The editorial especially emphasised on the "promising" cooperation policy of the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, which exclusively concentrates on Rwanda, and on "overlooked Lesotho".
Measured on total Official Development Assistance (ODA) and ODA per capita, "Lesotho receives far less than the African average," the editorial states. According to the latest available data from OECD, Lesotho in 2005 received an ODA of US$ 69 million, which translates to US$ 38 per inhabitant. In comparison, so-called "donor darlings" such as Mozambique and Zambia received more than the double per capita and even a dictatorship like Eritrea received an ODA per capita of over US$ 80 per capita.
"But needs are enormous," the editor holds. "Lesotho struggles with AIDS, poverty and drought. It has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world and spends much of its limited budgets on addressing the pandemic. Poverty is widespread and has its roots in the dependence of apartheid South Africa, to which it historically has provided cheap labour."
"The drought issue is the gravest. Droughts are getting more frequent, almost becoming continuous. Lesotho is indeed the best proven victim of global warming, as it entirely lies within a zone that has become drier. This will only get worse. So indeed, a part of the problem is induced by donor nations now speaking about addressing global warming. Morally, this should first be done in Lesotho," the editorial emphasises.
The editor of 'African Future' goes on asking whether increased aid to Lesotho would be efficient, answering that "Lesotho indeed has well-functioning democratic institutions that are hailed by the IMF as one of its biggest reform successes in Africa. Democracy is not perfect, but comparable to 'donor darlings' such as Mozambique and Zambia."
Contrasting these countries, the editorial goes on, "transparent institutions are in place. The press is free and the government is dedicated to addressing poverty. Further, the Basotho take both women empowerment and the environment seriously. Actually, women are in majority in Lesotho’s municipalities."
So why is Lesotho overlooked? The editor says he finds no good answer. "Could it be so simple that the kingdom is too small to be known? If so, maybe donors should reconsider the great impact their presence in such a small but well-prepared country would have," he concludes.
Since the editorial was written, Germany last week published its new and reduced list of principal development partner countries. One of the novelties in Africa was that Lesotho was dropped from the list, indicating also German aid will be phased out from Lesotho. In 2005, Germany was Lesotho's 9th largest donor, contributing with US$ 5 million. The only major newcomer to assist in Lesotho's development is the US agency Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which in July 2007 signed a five-year, US$ 362.6 million "Compact to reduce poverty and increase economic growth."
'African Future' is a journal published by the media house afrol News SL.
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