I am a big fan of global economist Dambisa Moyo. Something about her cool, calm yet determined demeanour appeals to me. More than that, she has something to say, and she’s not afraid to say it.
Her book Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa was published in 2009 but is still relevant today. It paints a starkly different picture of foreign aid to Africa, which is so often portrayed as a life-saving necessity from rich countries to poor, needy ones.
I’ve long had an issue with Bob Geldof and Band Aid’s depiction of Africa as a hopeless case in need of saving by The White Man. So too, it seems, does Moyo.
Her book questions long-conceived wisdoms, replacing them with the details about the use and misuse of foreign aid in Africa. The shocking statistics employed by Moyo illustrate aid’s failure to truly alleviate poverty across the continent.
The key issue, though, is less about who is to blame and more about how to solve the problem. With her cutting insight, Moyo provides us with the solutions she thinks are best suited to Africa’s unique position. What she reveals about foreign aid is discouraging to say the least, but Moyo clearly sees a different way for Africa.
Early on in the book, Moyo writes the following:
Aid has become a cultural commodity. Millions march for it. Governments are judged by it. But has more than US$1 trillion in development assistance over the last several decades made African people better off? No. In fact, across the globe the recipients of this aid are worse off; much worse off.
In what follows, she gives the reader a detailed history of aid, followed by an analysis of countries which have and have not used aid, and to what results. After debunking the common (mis)conception of aid, Moyo sets out her vision for a more prosperous Africa.
Note: The aid debate is a complex and important one. To hear some of the criticism of Moyo and her approach to aid, Jeffrey Sach’s Huffington Post article is not a bad place to start.