Great post by Brian who has some musings on aid for Africa:
The problems of Africa will not be solved by more foreign money. Maybe this is a non-leftist thing to say, but perhaps it's down to my first-hand experience in Africa. Saying "we're stingy and we need to give them more money" may assuage liberal guilt. But an equally common impulse among liberals and progressives is to want to help people and if that money isn't actually helping people, then what's the point? The point should be to help people, not to make your conscience feel a little better by some token nothing. Handouts might be a short term solution, but they're not a long term solution, as demonstrated by the last four decades.
To that end, development aid must require standards of good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights and private property. In other words, it must require those things which will set the groundwork for sustainable, long-term development, not just temporary feelgood projects that will disappear as soon as the foreign money does
The most effective way Aid can be used is in dealing with crises or health epidemics such as Malaria or Aids - see also Patri Friedman's thoughts on efficient giving - What will benefit any poor countries in the long term, apart from the removal of trade barriers (including those masquerading as "environmental and labor standards") is upholding human rights and property rights. Less attention is often paid to the latter but it is simply impossible for prosperity to take off without a system of title to property which is widely respected. Anyone who hasn't got secure title to her property is unable to make any kind of forward planning and investment. The tragedy of the commons is a predictable and inevitable consequence of poorly defined and poorly defended property rights