This is going to be bad news for Bono and Bob Geldof, but what a lot of people have long suspected is now official: every last penny in foreign aid sent to Africa is effectively being spent on waging war. The BBC reports:
A report on armed conflict in Africa has shown that the cost to the continent's development over a 15-year period was nearly $300bn (£146bn).
The research was undertaken by a number of non-governmental organisations, including Oxfam. It says the cost of conflict was equal to the amount of money received in aid during the same period.
The Guardian has more on the report, including this from Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who wrote in an introduction to the report:
"The sums are appalling: the price that Africa is paying could cover the cost of solving the HIV and AIDS crisis in Africa, or provide education, water and prevention and treatment for tuberculosis and malaria.''
The report adds that, compared to peaceful countries, war-ravaged African nations have 50 per cent more infant deaths, 15 per cent more undernourished people, life expectancy reduced by five years and 12.4 per cent less food per person.
None of this will come as a surprise to those who argue that Africa is never going to be turned around as long as foreign governments, charities and organisations such as the UN and EU continue to treat it as one giant welfare junkie, pumping in billions of dollars in aid without making it conditional on political and social reform.
Africa needs our help, but it's time that well-meaning politicians and guilt-tripping celebrities stopped pretending that more money is the answer. We might as well cut out the middle-man and send over crates of AK-47s.
Other than emergency measures to alleviate chronic hunger and illness, aid should first and foremost take the form of real support for those working to advance democracy and peace, while European governments and the UN need to stop indulging tyrants like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, and instead arrest and charge them for war crimes and human rights abuses.
Sadly, despite the wake-up call this report should sound, nothing's likely to change in the near future. The current system benefits Africa's dictators and the corrupt bureaucracies of the EU and UN in equal measure.
Maybe someone could organise a series of rock concerts around the world to raise awareness of the problem. Another wristband, anyone?