Book Review: Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo

After reading and reviewing both John Gahzvinian’s Untapped: The Search For Africa’s Oil and Kyle Mill’s evocative novel Lords of Corruption I’ve found myself with a growing interest in Africa,   although very few books about that region fly under my radar.    An utterly wonderful exception is Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working And How There Is A Better Way For Africa.    Moyo,  who is a native of  Zambia as well as a professional economist with graduate degrees from Harvard’s John F Kennedy School of Government and Oxford University in England,  takes a fresh approach to Africa’s economic woes and proposes a startling solution.

According to Moyo,   Africa is continually awash in a tide of foreign aid,  largely funneled by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.    Billions of US dollars each year flow to the countries of Africa,  given by rich Western nations.    Sadly,   this largess creates  far more problems than it solves.    The large sums are irresistibly tempting and most all of the millions of dollars received go into the hands of only a privileged few, while the plight of ordinary men and women grows ever more desperate.    While the foreign (and far removed) donors sometimes attempt to add  “conditionalities”  to aid grants,  to require that the donated funds be used for some particular purpose,   these terms have proved impossible to enforce;  so long as they remain in power even the most horrible abusers of human rights (eg Robert Mugabe) continue to receive large checks year after year.

And so Ms. Moyo advises, it is time for Africa to begin rejecting aid and pursue other avenues for financing their governments and societies.    Ms. Moyo’s  Dead Aid plan includes accessing the world’s capital markets by issuing bonds, encouraging foreign investment and trade– particularly with China and India and increasing remittances from African expatriates living in other parts of the world.    Ms. Moyo passionately and eloquently makes her case that the only way for things to improve in Africa is for Africans to begin building their economy while the West leaves its checkbooks at home.     While this book is very short,   it is not a quick and easy read largely because it is so thought provoking that it really does take sometime to think about and digest each of the well-written sections before moving on to the next.

Ms. Moyo states that the impetus for taking Africa off of the Dead Aid train and onto the path of economic self-reliance will necessarily have to come from activism in the donor countries of the West.     My only criticism is that it seems to me Ms. Moyo missed a golden opportunity to have a web site up and running specifically to organize the activism she seems to hope will follow among those who read this very important book.   While Ms. Moyo does have a web presence,   there is no DeadAid.com  for activists to begin calling for an end to aid.     It’s a radical idea,   but a very important one, which Moyo makes a very convincing case for.     If you have any interest in or concern about Africa,  Dambisa Moyo’s   Dead Aid is Very Highly Recommended.

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