04 March 2010

Book: Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa

Dambisa Moyo, "Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa", with a foreword by Harvard professor Niall Ferguson (Allan Lane/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009):


From the publisher's description: "In the past fifty years, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse – much worse. In Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo [...] illuminates the way in which overreliance on aid has trapped developing nations in a vicious circle of aid dependency, corruption, market distortion, and further poverty [...]. Dead Aid is an unsettling yet optimistic work, a powerful challenge to the assumptions and arguments that support a profoundly misguided development policy in Africa. And it is a clarion call to a new, more hopeful vision of how to address the desperate poverty that plagues millions."

Excerpts: "Alongside [the aid requirement of good] governance emerged the West's growing obsession with democracy for the developing world. The installation of democracy was the donor's final refuge; the last-ditch attempt to show that aid interventions could work, would work, if only the political conditions were right. [...] For the West, the process of open and fair elections had taken centuries to evolve, but the hope was that (coupled with aid) shoe-horning democracy into underdeveloped nations would guarantee that African countries would see a sudden change in their economic and political fortunes. Yet [...] any improvements in Africa's economic profile have been largely achieved in spite of (nominal) democracy, not because of it. [...]

"In a perfect world, what poor countries at the lowest rungs of economic development need is not a multi-party democracy, but in fact a decisive benevolent dictator to push through the reforms required to get the economy moving [...]. One only has to look to the history of Asian economies (China, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand) to see how this is borne out. And even beyond Asia, Pinochet's Chile and Fujimori's Peru are examples of economic success in lands bereft of democracy. [...] What is clear is that democracy is not the prerequisite for economic growth that aid proponents maintain. On the contrary, it is economic growth that is a prerequisite for democracy; and the one thing economic growth does not need is aid. [...]

"[L]ike it or not, the Chinese are coming. And it is in Africa that their campaign for global dominance will be solidified. [...] Whether or not Chinese domination is in the interest of the average African today is irrelevant. [...] [I]n the immediate term a woman in rural Dongo cares less about the risk to her democratic freedom in forty years' time than about putting food on her table tonight. [...] The secret of China's success is that its foray into Africa is all business."

Zambian-born Dambisa Moyo, a former consultant for the World Bank and Head of Economic Research and Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa at Goldman Sachs, holds a PhD in Economics from Oxford.

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