Yay for Dambisa Moyo!

Many years ago I wrote to the editors of Spy suggesting they do an article about what happened to the money raised by Live Aid. Dambisa Moyo, an African-born economist/author of a book called Dead Aid, has followed up my suggestion. In an interview, she said this:

MOYO Forty years ago, China was poorer than many African countries. Yes, they have money today, but where did that money come from? They built that, they worked very hard to create a situation where they are not dependent on aid.

SOLOMON What do you think has held back Africans?

MOYO I believe it’s largely aid. You get the corruption — historically, leaders have stolen the money without penalty — and you get the dependency, which kills entrepreneurship. You also disenfranchise African citizens, because the government is beholden to foreign donors and not accountable to its people.

Too bad she wasn’t asked what she thought of Jeffrey Sachs or Bill Gates. As Jane Jacobs once said, it’s a curious thing: you can’t help something unless you love it.

More In another interview, Moyo asks, relative to Bono and Africa, how would Americans feel “if Amy Winehouse started to give the US government advice about the credit crunch? And was listened to?”

7 Replies to “Yay for Dambisa Moyo!”

  1. re: Bono and Africa, does being a rock star mean he can’t study a topic and provide insight? If Amy Winehouse studied the issues and had something intelligent to say about the credit crunch why would we want to exclude her ideas because of her primary profession?

    I suppose that would be like asking an academic psychologist to come up with a new biologically based theory for dieting… (in other words, that seemed like an un-Seth comment)

  2. My professional expertise — my area of experimental psychology is animal learning — is exactly why I thought of a theory of weight control that nutritionists hadn’t thought of. They don’t know about associative learning, whereas associative learning is the main topic of my field.

    Bono is an easy target, as I tried to say. For that reason it is less than ideal to pick on him — I agree with you there.

  3. Seth,

    1. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but, on the other hand, I love free money, and I think I spend it wisely.

    2. I thought Bono’s big thing was debt forgiveness, which is quite a different thing from aid, no? Also, I think the China/Africa comparison is a little silly. Why not compare to Japan and Korea, both of which thrived on U.S. aid?

  4. It is quite easy to say stop aid when one is outside the country and doing quite well for oneself. Dambisa Moyo holds a PhD in Economics from Oxford University and a Masters from Harvard. Now not all Africans are so “blessed” as to have the funds to study at these top universities and then spout useless nonsense. While I do agree that Africa needs more open export markets, Africa is not the only continent that obtain aid from Bretton Woods (World Bank, IMF, WTO) group. The aid that goes to Africa is nominal at best. Aid is not the problem, our leaders are. Our leaders go to international summits and instead of putting Africa’s interest forward, they go shopping, or worse (see photo).

    Ms. Moyo’s answer to what has held Africa back was to say ” : I believe it’s largely aid. You get the corruption — historically, leaders have stolen the money without penalty — and you get the dependency, which kills entrepreneurship. You also disenfranchise African citizens, because the government is beholden to foreign donors and not accountable to its people.

    To Ms. Moyo I say:
    And whose fault is that? We get the leaders we deserve. If we were to put in competent and capable leaders and demand accountability, our leaders would be beholden to us. Massive aid was given to European countries after the War but the leaders knew that their first obligation was to their people. African leaders seem to have no such obligation. To put it simply, if you are given $5.00 for the purpose of buying your mom a gift, and then you spend the money on yourself, the $5.00 is not the problem, you are. You have not used it for its intended purpose. Do you now turn around and blame the person who gave you the $5.oo? Does your mom now blame that person as well?
    Here is another example (my apologies to the Ghanaians):
    Ghana won its independence in 1957, the same year as Malaysia. In the 1950s both countries were on an economic par – equally poor and equally dependent on the export of raw materials. Today, Ghanaians get by on an average of about $300 per year, while Malaysians earn over $3,000. Ghana is still exporting raw products like cocoa and gold, Malaysia makes its own cars and boasts skyscrapers that rival anything in New York or London. The development of one product – palm oil – tells part of the story. Ghana grows and processes the rich red oil to make soap and cooking. Malaysia – which imported its first palm oil trees from west Africa in the 1950s – has not only become the largest palm oil producer in the world, but has also developed a high-tech industry which makes sophisticated chemicals and food additives from the raw berries. The recently retired Prime Minister of Malaysia Dr Mahathir Mohamad puts it best:
    “Political stability is extremely important. Without political stability there can be no economic development. People are not going to put money into a place where there is no certainty”. The Malaysian state had established a solid framework of laws that allowed entrepreneurs to flourish. And the lack of such institutional framework is Africa’s problem, not aid.
    The New York Times question: Why didn’t you get a bond issue going in your native Zambia or other African countries?
    Ms. Moyo’s reply: Many politicians seem to have a lazy muscle. Issuing a bond would require that the president and the cabinet ministers go out and market their country. Why would they do that when they can just call up the World Bank and say, “Can I please have some money?”

    To Ms. Moyo I say:
    And pray tell who would buy bonds in a country that is not stable? This is business, not philantrophy. Buying bonds require security something that most of our governments seem to be unable or unwilling to provide.

  5. God bless My Saygeh:

    I actually wrote a two paged article about this woman in my college paper. Like I have been saying. Her general conclusion is in order: Aid has not helped Africa. However to suggest that the entire problem with Africa is aid is complete nonsense. Even worse to now suggest the Bond thing is stupididty. She said it herself that bonds are not forgiving of political instability. You mess up once, they dry up. So imagine what that would mean for African countries. No doubt the time for her ideas is NOT now. We need to be weaned off aid no doubt. The question we should be answering is how

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