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  • Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa
  • Ama Biney
Dambisa Moyo. Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa. London: Allen Lane, 2009. 188pp. £14.99.

For some people, arguments and positions represented in the book by Dambisa Moyo may be controversial, and even polemical. After all, she is an African woman with a background in the corporate world of Goldman Sachs, the World Bank, Harvard, and Oxford, who is advocating that aid, as it is known now, is damaging Africa and should stop. This proposition will alarm the entire international-aid architecture, including those whose jobs depend on doling aid to Africa, and for whom Africa is considered both a career and industry. However, the book may appeal to students, researchers, policy makers, and the general reader interested in aid. Moyo considers that there should still be a role for some kinds of aid intervention in Africa, especially in specific instances, as the sticking-plaster role of foreign aid, which has poured US$2 trillion from developed countries to poor countries in the last fifty years, has failed to deliver the promise of sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction.

Written eloquently, part one of Moyo's book is a searing and necessary critique of Western aid agencies and the African countries that receive aid, and its failure. Moyo's economic prescription for many African countries lies in a range of measures to be implemented over five to ten years. Among them are issuing bonds to raise finance, as has been done by South Africa, Ghana, and Gabon, only three of forty-three African countries; greater economic trade with the Chinese, who invested $4.5 billion in infrastructure in Africa in 2007 (more than the G8 countries combined); trade; microfinancing; and increasing domestic savings. Moyo believes her book provides a blueprint for Africa to wean itself off aid, and the goal cannot be achieved without the donors' cooperation.

Meanwhile, one senses that central to any such blueprint must be the democratic involvement of African people in deciding what development means for them and how it is to be attained; however, a definition or discussion of development is lacking in the perspective provided by Moyo: she implies that all her readers know what kind of development she envisions.

The weaknesses of Moyo's argument begin in the second part of her book, whereby, in chapter 5, "A Radical Rethink of the Aid-Dependency Model," there is little radical thinking in the measures suggested, "a menu of alternatives to fund economic development," particularly as these alternatives are likely to perpetuate the same market-oriented system of so-called free trade that has entrapped Africa for decades. That is because Moyo sees the market as a neutral arbiter of human values and decisions, and a fair distributor of wealth; yet this market is regulated in the interests of the African middle classes, far more than in the interests of farmers and the poor.

Fundamentally, the Achilles' heel of Moyo's thesis is that her exit strategy from aid dependency for Africa is unlikely to be a workable solution in the current global economic recession. After all, since independence, [End Page 115]many African countries have sought to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), which Western governments and financial institutions have at times provided, with conditionalities attached.

In chapter 7, "The Chinese are Our Friends," Mayo contends that the Chinese have dispensed with the conditionalities that Western countries are renowned for, and that new trading friends are being sought in such places as India, Japan, Russia, and Turkey; yet Mayo fails to examine the example of the pink revolution, which has recently swept Latin America, led by Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and the progressive presidency of Luis Inacio da Silva of Brazil.

Meanwhile, despite all the criticisms of Chavez by the West, he has shown that, in his populist policies, he has the needed support because oil wealth is translated into schools, universities, pensions, clinics, and hospitals for the masses. However, it is disturbing that Moyo is cited by...


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