I just finished reading a newly published book entitled Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa by Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian native. Born and raised in Zambia, she has worked for Goldman Sachs and at the World Bank as a consultant. She obtained her Masters from Harvard and her PhD in Economics at Oxford and, all in all has some amazing, eye-opening (albeit controversial) views on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of aid in Africa. The foreword, which was written by Niall Ferguson, problematizes the idea of the public debate on Africa’s economic problems being conducted by ‘non-African white men’ (Jeffrey Sachs, William Easterly, Paul Collier, etc.) and ‘rock stars’ like Bono and Bob Geldof. It follows that having a book of this magnitude written by an African woman makes it that much more salient. I found the text so eye-opening, in fact, that I’ve been flirting with the area of aid dependency as a dissertation topic; it is an area that I find incredibly interesting and somewhat controversial. Four books currently gracing my desk: The White Man’s Burden (Easterly 2006), Organizing US Foreign Aid (Lancaster 2005), Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, Domestic Politics (Lancaster 2007) and Aid to Africa (Lancaster 1999).
Though I have always been a self-diagnosed proponent of the ‘pro-aid model,’ I have found myself delving into loads of literature that has changed my point of view (the flexibility of one’s mind is one of the things I love about being a grad student). Moyo is one of many academics/economists/intellectual forces that has criticized aid, and the reasons that she brings to the forefront are hardly unsubstantiated. In fact, it would seem that if most people were given the facts on aid in the way that she presents them, very few people would be proponents of doling out the huge amount of systematic aid that we do. She suggests that Africa has not only not been able to development due to large aid inflows, but it continues to flounder in a state of poverty because of aid. Due to the corrupt nature of government, bilateral and multilateral funding is easily stolen/misused by those in power. Additionally, due to the fact that elites end up with access to aid, people are that much more compelled to fight for powerful positions, further engendering violence and hostility. Regardless of your stance on aid, I highly recommend picking it up. It’s a relatively easy read and it has a lot of great information.
One of my coursemates sent me a video of this debate between Dambisa Moyo and Alison Evans, the head of the ODI. It’s 22 minutes long, but it’s definitely worth checking out. Also, if you want more Moyo, here’s a shorter clip (under 10 minutes) from a CNN segment.
Now I’m off to read some Easterly — I’ll let you know if my views change yet again!