Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dambisa Moyo's argument gains attention and opposition

Dambisa Moyo, the author of "Dead Aid" has been all over the world promoting her book, and her ideas are beginning to gain some attention. In "Dead Aid" she claims that international aid and assistance has hurt Africa more than helped it. Moyo's position is that aid has led to corrupt governments and has kept the African people from finding solutions to their own problems or be self sustaining.

From the Financial Times, writer William Wallis details some of the opposisition to her book.

It has been easy for critics to poke holes in both her analysis and her solutions. The book does not establish in any scientific way the link between the hundreds of billions of dollars poured into Africa over decades and the poor performance of economies. It also studiously ignores evidence of development assistance working. Kevin Watkins, director of the United Nations' human development report office, says it is the equivalent of "blaming the fire engine because it is near the fire".

International capital markets have meanwhile become punitively expensive places for poor countries to borrow - hardly the solution now.

But the book is only part of the challenge Ms Moyo poses for an industry accustomed to having all the most vocal campaigners on its side. Her ideas are now proliferating across the internet on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and on countless blogs. She has been interviewed or reviewed by practically every mainstream western media organisation.

Nor is she popular only among aid critics and cash-strapped governments in the west. She has energised many fellow Africans to join in the debate.

Panicked at the prospect that her ideas are gaining traction, Jeffrey Sachs, the US academic and aid advocate, accused her of endangering lives. Ms Moyo's ideas, he said, were "absolutely pernicious, and could lead to the deaths of millions of people".

Rock star Bob Geldof's aid advocacy organisation, One, has also been mobilising opp-osition to her message. However, an e-mail campaign by a One activist encouraging African NGOs to stand up to her arguments at least partially backfired.

"If Africans feel strongly against her ideas then they should not need to be 'mobilised' by your organisation. More effective would be to open fora for debate where differences of opinion are welcome," responded Iris Mwanza of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia.

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