Piketty warns foreign aid risks 'undermining' Africa

2nd October 2015, Comments 0 comments

Superstar French economist Thomas Piketty warned Friday that international aid could be "undermining" Africa as the continent struggles to lift millions out of poverty despite robust economic growth.

Piketty criticised international aid organisations for needlessly replicating government services, adding that African nations should also work to take more control of revenues created by their vast natural resources.

International aid was "in some cases undermining the state building process," he told AFP in Johannesburg.

"(Aid) is a way to deliver social services... without going through the public education or health system which, in the long run, is the most important."

Piketty was in South Africa's economic capital to deliver an annual lecture organised by the Nelson Mandela Foundation which will take place on Saturday.

He shot to fame in 2013 as the best-selling author of "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" which saw him hailed as "the modern Marx" for his analysis of the free market and the unequal concentration of wealth.

Inequality is a hot political issue in South Africa as public frustration grows over the lack of progress in tackling huge social and economic problems that were the legacy of the apartheid regime.

Corruption is also a key issue with graft scandals dogging President Jacob Zuma and threatening to unseat the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party in major cities in next year's municipal elections.

"South Africa is one of the only countries where we actually have no data on the concentration of wealth, and how this has been changing since the fall of apartheid," said Piketty, a professor at the Paris School of Economics.

"We have policies that have been put in place supposedly to spread the wealth -- there's a lot of suspicion this has not worked so well."

Sub-Saharan Africa enjoyed robust GDP growth of five percent in 2014, though South Africa grew at only 1.5 percent.

Almost half of all Africans live in extreme poverty on $1.25 a day or less, according to the World Bank.

© 2015 AFP

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