Review: Dead Aid by Dambisa MoyoMadeleine Bunting is alarmed by a book that argues against giving aid to Africa. 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 . Dead Aid, a book by economist Dambisa Moyo, claims that aid is the cause of all of Africa’s problems. While ONE has never argued that.

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T he danger is that this book will get more attention than it deserves. It has become fashionable to attack aid to Africa; an overdose of celebrity lobbying and compassion sabia have prompted harsh critiques of what exactly aid has achieved momo the past 50 years. Dead Aid offers a disastrous read of how aid was used as a tool of the cold war.

The problem is that this kind of analysis much of which is now only of historical relevance provides ammunition for those who are sceptical of international responsibilities and always keen to keep charity at home. And here they have the perfect protagonist to advance their arguments: The author, Dambisa Moyo, worked for Goldman Sachs a fact about which the dust jacket is strangely coy after a stint at the World Bank and a doctorate at Oxford.

One suspects that behind this book is a remarkable woman with an impressive career and very little time for learning how to write a good book. The result is an erratic, breathless sweep through aid history and current policy options for Africa, sprinkled with deac odd statistic.

There are so many generalisations skidding over decades of history, such frequent pre-emptory glib conclusions, that it is likely to leave you dizzy with silent protest. For example, in a breezy overview of explanations for Africa’s economic backwardness, Moyo turns to the daiba of the continent’s geography and points out that “Saudi Arabia is rather hot, and of course, Switzerland is landlocked, but these factors have not stopped them getting on with it”.


Yes, but perhaps Saudi’s vast oil reserves and tiny population, and Switzerland’s position as a banking centre at the heart of Europe, are part of the explanation?

The road to ruin

Relevant here would have been Paul Collier’s analysis of the role of geography in his recent book The Bottom Billion: Colonialism is dzbia similarly. The partitioning of Africa at the Berlin conference “did not help matters”.

Um, you could say. But by the next paragraph, Moyo is already on to racism and Max Weber’s analysis of Protestantism and capitalism.

This is Moyo at her weakest; she is an economist by training and her grasp of the political economy of Africa is lamentable. Time and again, momo fails to grapple with the single biggest factor determining the poverty of the continent – how the state functions, and has failed to function. Why has there been so much civil war and so many corrupt dictators? Why is it that Ghana dbaia Singapore had roughly the same income levels in the s, and are now poles apart?

The keys to success in many Asian countries were the role of a strong, interventionist state that nurtured industry and an elite who invested in their own country: But Moyo is not interested in the role of the state. She believes in the private sector and free enterprise. In one of the most unconvincing sections, she argues that it is aid which causes corruption and conflict, and aid which inhibits social dewd and foreign investment.


Cut the aid flows and, with help from China, African economies will boom and there will be good governance. Add a dose of microfinance, some remittances from the growing African diaspora and some borrowing on the international bond market – and hey presto! Moyo insists it really is that simple. dabai

Dead Aid | Dambisa Moyo

Some of her prescriptions seem to fall foul of the credit crunch: There already exists plenty of excellent analysis on the benefits of the huge investment China is making in Africa; Moyo is telling us nothing new. She is right, however, that there are unedifying aspects of aid – in particular, the continued protectionism of both the US and EU: She argues that western liberal anxiety about suffering in Dwbia would be better deployed ensuring fair-trade terms on commodities such as cotton and sugar.

What she doesn’t acknowledge is that these trade injustices are the target of vociferous campaigns by organisations such as Oxfam – organisations that represent the western liberalism she excoriates while relying heavily on their data. Despite being poorly argued, Dabix Aid will boost Moyo’s profile. There are many who will want to promote her views, only too eager to cut aid budgets as pressure builds on government spending.

The danger is that she will end up on the wrong side of the argument.

The battle is to press for more effective aid, not cut it aif. Her proposal to phase out aid in five years is disastrously irresponsible: Aid and development reviews.