Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dambisa Moyo and "Dead Aid"

Yes, not secret that I am not a fan of Bono (neither his music nor work on aid effectiveness). But I fear the arrival of "Dead Aid" isn't going to help stimulate the debate in a good way.

The author, Dambisa Moyo, makes some good points in the interviews I have read and heard. And she's right to call on African countries to innovate during the financial crisis. But it isn't so black and white and while her critique needs to be considered very carefully in any effort to improve aid effectiveness, calling for an end to aid in Africa in "five years" is just irresponsible. Some aid keeps people alive. That doesn't mean the points are not valid, but I worry that Moyo's conclusions will only polarize.

While I appreciate her plug for www.kiva.org, that's only one solution that needs to be used and it isn't enough, which I trust even Kiva would admit (though I do hope they get more donations as a result of her work!). Kiva cannot reach some of the poorest people as a result of poor infrastructure and bad or non-existent governance. So, we have to demand that aid changes, not demand that it stops completely. Even Moyo admits, "it is not to say there are not some good aid projects on the ground", in this interview.

And she's wrong when she claims there is "nobody" who feels sorry the poor in China. I feel sorry for the 300 million Chinese people who live in substandard conditions and a lot of others do as well. We just don't here about them as much due to many factors beyond the topic of this post.

More and more, I find myself agreeing with Paul Collier. Here's his review of Moyo's book.
I think that African societies need international help to overcome these problems; it is just that the help they need is not predominantly money. Aid is not a very potent instrument for enhancing either security or accountability. Our obsession with it has detracted from the more important ways in which we can promote development: peacekeeping, security guarantees, trade privileges, and governance.

4 comments:

CloverBrooke said...

do i agree with every word you just wrote because i like you...or do i like you because i agree with every word you just said? either way, you're right on!

Pavlusha34 said...

I think in this case, both are true.

cat_aidg said...

Unfortunately I think people get neither book deals nor publicity for saying we should be moderate in how we use x, y, or z. I think to make any impact as an author, you have to throw out an absurd premise ("No more aid after 5 years") to get the target audience to do something more reasonable (less aid/loans in favor of more innovative/effective options such as more favorable trade).

Pavlusha34 said...

You are probably, right, but I guess I naively hope that people like Moyo will dig into the details and offer new ideas rather than polarizing the debate for a book deal. The basic points are made in other places.