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    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid, Aid Blogs, Aid Debates

    Unsurprisingly as someone who works for an aid agency, i don't think Dambisa Moyo's idea that pulling the plug on all but emergency aid to Africa within five years is a good idea. Her notion that aid is only helping to perpetuate patterns of corruption and dependency in Africa is unconvincing and as several reviews of her work have pointed out, her thesis argues with a strawman version of the case for aid.

    But following the debate on her book i've stumbled across some blogging and you tube clips of excellent vigorous debates between Moyo and others. These debates lead me to hope that the main effect of the media spotlight on Moyo will not be buttressing the argument for turning our back on aid to africa but reinvigorating the case for its defence. I find Bill Easterly a much more constuctive and powerful critic of bad aid so its great to see he's not just regularly blogging but twittering too. Duncan Green has also weighed into the Moyo aid debate, Green's from poverty to power blog has to be the best blog from an NGO type on the issues of aid and development, bar none, and his post on Moyo has a rake of links to strong rebuttals of the Dead Aid argument.

    Elsewhere Paul Collier's Bottom Billion is possibly the best general introduction to the problems of aid and development i've read, and refreshingly he lies somewhere between the polarised extremes of Moyo's 'aid is the problem' and Sach's 'aid is the solution,' what Collier calls 'theatrically opposed polar positions'. He falls more in to the 'aid can do some good, it can be more effective, but cannot be expected by itself to produce major economic development.' school. And this clip of him debating Moyo is worth a look.

    Collier's follow up to the Bottom Billion reviewed in the New York Times here.

    Finally, in this clip of Moyo's debate with Alison Evans on BBC's hard talk , Evans goes a long way to discrediting the idea that aid is actually responsible for African poverty.


    Peter said...


    Moyo did not advocate to pull the plug on emergency aid, but rather to pull the plug on bilateral government to government aid.

    In her book, she makes a clear distinction between the two and recognizes that humanitarian (or emergency) aid needs to continue.


    Alan Whelan said...

    hi Peter, thanks for the comment, yep you're right that is Moyo's position. I don't think pulling the plug on bilateral government to government aid is a good idea. There are many, many problems with tied aid, poorly delivered aid etc but i think her argument is overplaying the idea that aid has created a dependency culture which will be vanish when people are forced to adjust to life without aid.

    I also think aid is a pretty small part of the picture at a macro level, as she says Africa needs better access to markets, improved infrastructure, better governance and to suggest aid can deliver all that would be a nonsense.

    But government to government support can and does help. That's my view anyhow. Basically let's focus on improving the quality of aid not removing it, that's where i'm coming from.