“The logo of USAID says, ‘from the American people,’ but I think the American people increasingly understand that our development commitments in Africa also generate outcomes for the American people,” says Raj Shah, the chief administrator for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which handles most of the US government’s foreign development assistance.
“It’s an expression of our moral values when we are able to save lives on this continent and protect young children from starving or protect people with HIV from dying when they don’t need to die,” Mr. Shah says. “But we also know these outcomes keep us safe and lay the groundwork for economic stability and growth.”
Foreign aid to Africa may have bipartisan support in Congress, but ordinary American voters often see foreign aid as a colossal waste of taxpayer money – while also vastly overestimating the US government's foreign aid budget. In a November 2010 poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org and Knowledge Networks, Americans were asked what percentage of the US federal budget was spent on foreign aid; the median answer was 25 percent. When asked what would be the “appropriate” percentage of the budget spent on foreign aid; the median answer was a much more parsimonious 10 percent figure. The US actually spends only 1 percent of its federal budget on foreign aid.