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The image of EEC aid a painful truth

A few months ago, an opinion poll was carried out among African and Malagasy opinion - leaders on the image of Europe and the European Community, both in themselves and also regarding the impact of European - ACP cooperation. One conclusion has emerged, which will be of little comfort to those working in the field of development. It is that, despite definite awareness of, and positive judgements on many of its actions, the EEC and its cooperation policy take only third place in the view of African and Malagasy opinion - formers, coming behind bilateral cooperation or cooperation with the UN and its specialised agencies (FAO, UNDP, WMO, UNICEF, and so on). With some exceptions, compared to cooperation with these latter, EEC aid was found by them to be:

- less important in terms of volume,
- less suited to what was needed,
- the least effective,
- the aid producing the fewest long term results,
- the worst, overall.

There could be a number of specific reasons for this very negative overall picture the state of the Lomegotiations at the time the survey was carried out (August - September 1989), the poor communications of the Commission, but, at the very least, the report shows that something is wrong with EEC - ACP morale, and perhaps with the planning and implementing of Community cooperation. Is this the hangover after the celebrations at Lom

The survey, conducted by Secodip International, was commissioned by the European Commission, and interviews were conducted with 1253 people, 744 French - speakers and 509 English - speakers in seven countries, Senegal, Cameroon, Za, Madagascar, Ghana, Zambia and Tanzania.

Opinion - leaders were defined in the light of previous research studies as being the group which with its function and know - how, the position it occupies in society and its kinds of activity, tend to be open to the out side world, and well - informed about current affairs, national and international. It brings together most of the decision - makers and executives as well as its own opinions, consumption patterns and way of life.

Whatever the nature of the sample population, it is certainly a well informed one. National radio is listened to first and most regularly, but on total listening, 65 % of those interviewed also listened to the BBC, 59% to Voice of America, 60% to Radio France International, Africa N° 1 with 33 % overall, Deutsche Welle with 32 % and Radio Moscow with 20%. When it comes to reading newspapers, the English - speakers seem more assiduous than French - speakers, with 97% daily readers as opposed to 81%. Moreover, around 20 % in Zambia and Ghana read more than one paper, while in Cameroon and Senegal there is only one daily paper. The French - speakers thus turn to the foreign press: 50 % of them read a foreign paper compared to only 24% of English - speakers. The most widely read foreign paper “ by a long chalk “ is “ Le Monde “.

And the opinion - leaders do a lot of comparing, too. In answer to the questions “ What is the main problem facing the countries of Africa and the Indian Ocean today’?” and “What is the main problem facing your country?”, there was a considerable amount of variation, from country to country, and theme by theme. The three major problems for the whole of Africa and Madagascar were reckoned to be debt (21 %) economic crisis (20 %) and underdevelopment (16%), but while French - speakers chose debt as the main threat (26%) English - speakers cited the economic crisis in general (25 %), debt being given only 15 % of the votes. And there was a wide range of subsidiary problems cited, Ghanaians worrying about political division and instability, and Tanzanians about lack of infrastructure, while Madagascans cited poverty and lack of self - sufficiency in food. At the individual country level, three countries cited mismanagement high on the list of problems, and two cited employment prospects.

And while 95 % of respondents considered aid to be an important matter for Africa and Madagascar in general, and their country in particular, 55 % replied, in response to a further question, that international cooperation was a disguised form of exploitation, 10% thought it unsuitable, another 10% thought its results disappointing, 9% thought aid levels too low and 6 % felt that it was being embezzled. A total of 75 % of respondents felt that aid was principally of benefit to the industrialised countries, 14 % felt that the benefits were equally shared by North and South and only 5 % felt that Africa and the Indian Ocean countries were the real beneficiaries.

The most popular areas of cooperation were health (93 %) agriculture (91 %) and science and technology (91%). The least popular were economic aid (49%) military (41 %) and public administration (31%). And as for the donors, every single country put bilateral aid first in terms of volume, suitability, effectiveness, durability and general merit, and put multilateral aid second. Community aid came in third place, with certain rare exceptions. French - speakers, for example, gave it second place in terms of volume of aid, and Madagascans placed it second overall, while Zambians rated it highly for everything except volume. This being the case, it was interesting to note the replies to the question. “Do you think that the countries of the ACP Group and the European Community have interests in common or not’? “ 59 % thought so, as against 32% who did not, and while the majority of “ positive thinkers “ was over 70 % in Madagascar, Zambia and Senegal, it was in a minority in Za (44% to 47%). A very wide margin gave economics the key role in this relationship - the interdependency of markets was cited by 60% of all respondents. Sentiment and idealism were squeezed to the very bottom of the list: only 3 % thought that there might be a common interest in development, and the same percentage cited historical and linguistic links. When asked “Why do the ACP countries need Europe? and “Why does Europe need the ACPs?” a surprising 95 % across the board agreed that we do need each other, not quite the same as having interests in common. Indeed, it is a darkly cynical view: our interests are relatively divergent, our relationship exploitative (at least on the side of Europe) yet we must “hang together for fear of hanging separately”. The ACPs, according to the questionnaire need Europe for technology transfer (38%) general development (21 %) trade opportunities (15%) and capital inflows (13 %). Europe is perceived by 69 % of respondents as needing Africa for its raw materials, as an outlet for manufactured goods by 37 %, and, in general, as a trading partner by 22 %. Thus whatever the weak points, whatever the suspicion of Europe’s motives, there is a relationship which is recognised as a special one and one on which a great deal depends.

But the real disappointment seems, according to this survey, to be reserved for the concrete expression of that relationship, the application of EEC - ACP cooperation. The final question was designed to “allow the respondents the possibility of expressing themselves freely about European aid and pull together the conclusions of this report themselves ‘ according to Secodip. The question was: “What do you think about European aid and what do you expect from Europe these days?”. The following percentages were obtained:

- It is a good thing, beneficial


- It is a necessary help


- It is insufficient


- It maintains dependency, is a form of exploitation


- It is ill-suited and misdirected


- It is hypocritical and self-interested


- It is ineffective


- It imposes too many conditions


Thus, 69 % of opinions expressed were negative and only 22 % positive. (The 18% who replied that it was a necessary help are not classifiable since there is no positive or negative value - judgement implied.)

Even where Community spokesmen have admitted to shortcomings in the performance of aid under Lomthey have gone out of their way to stress that Loms different: stable, predictable, long - term and multi - faceted. But is Lomerceived as different by African and Madagascans opinion leaders? Two questions were asked on this, “Is Lomifferent from other forms of aid and cooperation?” and “How is it different?”. The results, again, must be cause for serious disappointment. 55 % of respondents saw no difference between Lomid and other aid, the exceptions being Zaire and Senegal who noticed the difference in 56% of cases. And the differences noted were not always flattering: 12% agreed that it “came with many advantages “, 7 % felt that it was well - diversified, but 5 % claimed that it imposed “ more conditions”, 6% felt it imposed its views on ACPs and 7 % felt that it benefited the EEC more than the ACPs. And if there was one theme that was hammered home time and again, it was that of access to European markets. Despite its liberality, Lomcores worst on this, the one really profoundly “different” aspect of its cooperation.

All in all, then, the survey is a sobering one for Europe in general and the Commission in particular. The consultants who carried out the survey preface it with the following remarks:

“This report conveys more a lack of information than it takes account of real facts. But it is a justification, if this were needed, for starting work on a systematic awareness and information policy very quickly, with the aim of influencing the views of these opinion - formers and modifying the image they have of European cooperation, taking account at the same time of the role they play in ‘forming’ the opinions of the African... population and the importance of the efforts made for years by Europe in their countries.”

But maybe this is something which cannot be overcome by a “ media campaign”. One of the sobering facts for The Courier is that nobody mentioned reading it, and we send 350 000 copies a year to Africa. Maybe they don’t read it; maybe they read it and don’t believe it; maybe, however, they read it, believe it and don’t mention it because it is not information which is lacking, but a fundamental faith in EEC - ACP cooperation. T.G.

Information and development education

On seeing the results of this poll, the Commission Delegate in one of the countries covered protested: “ But, you haven’t put these questions to any peasants! That would have been! more interesting, because they are the ones who really benefit from our aid! People in towns civil servants, you know what they’re like...”

A reaction such as this does not, ofcourse, make the results of the poll, any less interesting even if they may be partial nor does it detract from the lessons to be learned from it. It makes. undoubtedly, interesting reading.

What is, after all, known in Kinshasa about rural development projects in Kivu, whether or not they are financed by the Community? To what extent are townspeople and the nations’ elites informed of development projects and programmes which, are being carried out far away, deep in the countryside? How much does the town care about the country, anyway’? Is there, in fact, enough development education going on in the developing countries themselves?

These questions, which cannot, of course, be answered in these few lines, are perhaps the most fundamental ones to be raised - albeit indirectly - by the poll.

The results of the poll would probably apply for most forms of cooperation Community cooperation having the “disadvantage” of tending to be more rural - based than others. Nevertheless, it is clear that the image of European development cooperation amongst African elites seems to be more cloudy than those of other bilateral or multilateral donors, which means that, as things stand, it has a low political profile. This is not without significance: while Community aid should, above all, be effective it should also if it is effective - be recognised as being so. If not, the EEC - ACP partnership is in danger of being seriously perturbed.

Perhaps it might help without resorting to pure propaganda - to give greater emphasis to information, a field in which to date the Community has tended to show some reticence. Perhaps, then, we should encourage a strengthening of our communications efforts where, and whenever these are possible because the twin objectives of information and development must and should become complementary.