In this essay, I offer some advice for people who care about African poverty.
1. The world is a complex place. The farther you are removed from a situation, the less likely that your intervention there will do good and the greater risk that it will cause harm. No matter how thoughtfully it is administered, long-distance aid will tend to be ineffective.
2. The easiest poverty to prevent is poverty that is close by. By developing useful skills and remaining employed, you can help keep yourself and your family out of poverty.
...5. Remember that unlike the Folk Song Army of Tom Lehrer's song, you have no monopoly on good intentions. A morality play in which those who care crusade against those who are square makes for great theater. However, it is not a realistic basis for economic policy.
Even when aid is supposed to promote policy change, it fails. Countries promise reform, receive donor largess, then introduce half-hearted reforms or fail to do so altogether. A recent World Bank study looked at the record of aid from 1980 to 2000 and found "aid on balance significantly retards rather than encourages market-oriented policy reform." That finding is consistent with a previous Bank study that "reform is more likely to be preceded by a decline in aid than an increase in aid."
Read the entire Vasquez piece. Thanks to Don Boudreaux for the pointer.