Dead Aid

I very much welcomed Dambisa Moyo’s book as a contribution to the debate on the Aid Industry. It has always been a source of great frustration to people like myself who have worked in Africa to see how few Africans are given a hearing. The issue of Aid is really central to the continent’s future. Of course the problem is that Moyo is venturing into a debate that has to date been colonized by white men. Despite the fact that she is a native Zambian woman with a Masters from Harvard and a doctorate from Oxford, she has not exactly been welcomed by the Western bien pensant. Her experience with Goldman Sachs and the World Bank counts for nothing when she is opposed by such luminaries as rock stars such as Bono and Geldof, the massed ranks of the Churches and NGOs, and emoting politicians, such as that toxic duo Brown & Blair. When she warns that such aid compounds poverty by fostering dependency, breeding corruption and stifling enterprise she should not be dismissed out of hand in the West. Clearly, in order to justify the increased spending on aid, Africans have often been portrayed as helpless. This has discouraged the very trade and investment necessary to drive development. As an old Africa hand I agree with Moyo’s assessment that Chinese direct investment and the resultant building of infrastructure such as roads and railways to extract minerals have had a mainly beneficial effect. Western politicians and NGOs are certainly in no position to criticize the contacts between the Chinese and African despots since it was under the auspices of Western aid, goodwill and transparency that Africa’s most notorious plunderers have risen and thrived.

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