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African countries pledge aid to Haiti, but can they really afford it?

Leaders pledged aid to Haiti this week at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but the reaction among average Africans has been mixed. In Congo, news of the $2.5 million aid pledge sparked demonstrations.

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Employees organize medicines donated by other countries after Haiti's earthquake at the General Hospital in Port-au-Prince on Tuesday.

Andres Leighton/AP

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To some Western cynics, Africa may seem to be a place where aid dollars go to die. But when the Haitian earthquake struck, African leaders dug deep into public coffers to offer what they could.

The Democratic Republic of Congo – a country that receives billions of dollars in foreign aid after more than a decade of war – offered $2.5 million. Ghana has offered $3 million. Senegal has offered $1 million and land to any Haitian who seeks to immigrate. Oil-rich Equatorial Guinea has offered $2 million, and dirt-poor Sierra Leone has pledged $100,000.

Such offers may play well in the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where leaders closed their annual summit yesterday, but the reaction among average African has been mixed. In Congo's capital, Kinshasa, news of the $2.5 million aid pledge sparked demonstrations this week.

Still, African leaders are eager to trumpet their efforts to help Haiti, the world's first black republic and a model for their own moves to break free from European colonial masters.

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