Another day, another Tweet from USAID about money for electricity generation in Africa. It is about PowerAfrica, the subject addressed by President Obama during his South African visit.
Back in the bad old days of George W Bush and Tony Blair, every summit brought discussions of HIV or TB or malaria or even non-communicable diseases. Not these days. Three months ago, the European Commissioner for Development made it the centrepiece of an interview with Reuters in which he argued for maintaining spending on overseas development.
One of the reasons everyone is so keen on power is that money for electricity generation can be leveraged. You don’t just pay the bills; you use development money to get access to national lending and investors’ funds. Countries believe that more electricity will make them richer in future and they put their money behind that belief. It is a depressing testament to the lack of imagination in health financing and the appalling advocacy about health benefits that the supporters of the fight against disease cannot mobilise leaders and money around the idea that healthier citizens will help build a more prosperous future.
Commissioner Pielbags also punctured another fond myth of the more delusional global health advocates. “Sometimes [development aid from emerging economies] is perceived as a huge growing source, but in reality it is commercial investment happening,” says Piebalgs, playing down the importance of developing world support. “The development part of this investment is rather limited.”