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March 27th, 2009
10:23 AM ET

No aid for Africa?

Dambisa Moyo, a Harvard/Oxford-educated economist, says aid to Africa is not a solution.

Dambisa Moyo, a Harvard/Oxford-educated economist, says aid to Africa is not a solution.

For decades, aid and Africa have been inextricably linked, but Dambisa Moyo, a Harvard/Oxford-educated economist wants to change that…immediately.

In her controversial new book “Dead Aid,” she argues that aid to Africa has caused more harm than good. War, poverty, corruption – blame it on aid, she says. At worst it ends up lining the pockets of corrupt political leaders, she says. At best case scenario, it does not do anything productive; it goes to fuel large bureaucracies that do not support entrepreneurship and that primarily choke off any private sector of development.

Cutting off aid won’t hurt most Africans because it never gets to them anyway, she argues. She joins a small number of intellectuals who have, in recent years, posited that too much help has hindered the continent’s growth. And yet, Moyo remains an anomaly: a young African woman, in a world where conversations of this nature are dominated by older, white males.

I have to admit I was struck by her style when we met. With her Hermes bag and patent leather Lanvin heels, she looked more befitting the pages of Vogue than the hollowed halls of Goldman Sachs, where she’s worked for several years. Clearly, this was one African not in need of aid.

Though I didn’t agree with her position on the role of celebrities and Africa, I did admire her bravery. Not many people are willing to take on Bono. In fact, most have praised the rock star for his tireless work on behalf of Africa, but Moyo isn’t a fan of what she’s dubbed, “glamour-aid.”

“For me and millions of other Africans who spend a lot of time in long lines voting, we expect African leaders to offer an opinion on how they see the future of the continent,” she explains, “so it is worrying for Bono to be the ostensible face of Africa.”

Naturally, those in the aid community are outraged. Her book, they argue, is not grounded in credible evidence. “It would be like looking at all the problematic contracts at the Pentagon and then saying that we should disband the military,” says John McArthur, head of the aid organization Millennium Promise.

“It’s a false logic and not helpful.” He is quick to point to achievements aid has brought to the continent. “Ninety percent reduction of death to measles,” he says. “Two million people on AIDS treatment. None of whom were on medication at the turn of the century. Tens of millions of anti-malaria bed nets distributed with 50 percent reduction in child morbidity in those cases…”

Still, Moyo insists that it is trade and not aid that Africa needs. And she’s also a big proponent of microfinancing. “The good news is that we have alternatives,” she says. “Africa doesn’t have to go and re-create the wheel.”


Filed under: Africa
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Jeff Beyers

    Info good
    please send relevent information to my email address

    June 9, 2009 at 12:51 am |
  2. II

    Every year Millions and Millions of dollars of aid money goes into Africa and I'm still waiting for the results....For God's Sake when will we not need the aid when we see Judgement Day.

    April 21, 2009 at 12:33 pm |
  3. TorontoGril101

    As African I completely agree with her. We us africans don't need aid to our contries, but rather investments in our schools, hospital and farms i.e..provide us with farm equipment and we will do the rest of it.

    Thank You.

    April 21, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  4. mark in toronto

    aid is a stop-gap/bandaid solution, trade is a lasting solution. both needs to be done simultaneously with the phasing out of aid as trade rises to make it unnecessary. Ms Moyo has a cogent mind but her thinking is autistic. the work Bono and many aid organization do saves lives now while autistic intellectuals pontificate about what should be done. In addition to saving lives so that they will survive to hopefully trade, Bono, etc work serve to help us all to connect with the fact that we are a SINGLE SPECIES and the primitive egotistic fantasy/fiction that we should not care for others among our species is backwards at best.

    In sum trade is better than aid, but in the absence of trade all we are left with for now is aid.

    thanks lola for the story.

    April 8, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  5. terry

    The book talks about how trade and business will save africa. people forget Business is about making money nothing more nothing less. She says that $100 billion in trade to africa makes more of an impact, it would except for the fact that nearly all of this is oil and naturel resources. Which oil company will build clinics and buy fertizer for farmers – none. which business has it in their business plan to help farmers or clinics none.

    Every government is corrupt look at the previous U.S president, who gave contracts to halliburton, or favoured healthcare companies, it does not mean all the government is corrupt , or that you stop dealing with that country.

    March 28, 2009 at 8:14 am |
  6. Purnell, Kankakee, IL.

    There is no honor in giving people aid only to make deals with thier sad governments so that you can buy up thier resources for pennies on the dollar! The raping of these countries need to stop right now! Corporations have run amuck in driving these countries into debt so that they can get at thier resources!

    March 27, 2009 at 10:57 am |
  7. Purnell, Kankakee, IL.

    She is completely right!

    The lady from Africa is right, when i found out that the U.S. and other first world countries pay African countries third wolrd countries not to grow their own food so that they will not be able to drive down prices in our markets I was totally pissed off. We have been praying on these countries for years, so that their weak leaders will take the money and sign over thier rights to what resources that they do have!

    I found that out in business school!

    We have become like the drug dealer down the street that give his future customer a sample, knowing full well that once that person comes down from thier high, they will want more money. And like many drug user once thier money runs out they will sell what ever they have for a faction of it’s ture value ans some thimes nothing, that is what many of our corporations are doing in these third world countries, getting them in debt and force them to sign over thier resources that they never developed, or we will call for the full payment of thier debts all at once!

    That is what happens when coporation buy up other countries water rights, in poor countries knowing full well that they can not afford to pay for water to drink!

    March 27, 2009 at 10:53 am |