Dambisa Moyo: Why Aid Isn’t Working

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Dambisa Moyo in Dead Aid discusses how Africa’s elected officials and/or policymakers are responsible for offering opinions on what should be done with aid. She says, however, this responsibility has been left to musicians who live outside of Africa. Moyo compares this to how a critic of the aid model said: “my voice can’t compete with an electric guitar.” This refers to U2 musician Bono’s campaign to increase African aid. According to an article from the Washington Diplomat, some people have even began to label Moyo as the “anti-Bono.”

(Here’s an interview from The Daily Beast with Moyo about her book.)

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame responded to this as well in Moyo’s book, putting it simply: “The primary reason [that there is little to show for the more than $300 billion of aid that has gone to Africa since 1970] is that in the context of post-Second World War geopolitical and strategic rivalries and economic interests, much of this aid was spent on creating and sustaining client regimes of one type or another, with minimal regard to developmental outcomes on our continent.”

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When Kagame refers to geopolitical rivalries, I think he’s talking about the Rwandan Genocide.

A variety of reasons have been offered to account for why African countries are not working, says Moyo.

For example, a country’s success and wealth depends on its geographical environment. Certain environments are easier to work with than others. This argument was advanced by Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel. He says that all cultures and societies have had about the same abilities to alter nature, but their raw materials were different.

Colonialism, and “the idea being that colonial powers delineated nations, established political structures and fashioned bureaucracies that were fundamentally incompatible with the way of life of indigenous populations.”

Another reason is simply that Africans are the problem, Moyo says. “…culturally, mentally and physically Africans are innately different.”

Moyo says the several reasons she discusses aren’t the entire story. She notes that no factor should condemn Africa to a permanent failure to grow. Each reason or factor may have contributed to the explanation, African countries all share one thing — they all depend on aid.

I think Moyo’s argument is quite clear because she provides a number of examples to support her statements.


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