Jeff Sachs and John McArthur now blogging

John, did you not tell me you and Jeff were starting a new blog? (We crypto-Canadians are supposed to stick together, you know.)

Here is Jeff on the G20 meeting. Here John reviews Dambisa Moyo’s new book maligning aid. Moyo’s taking a beating from economists of all stripes.

My query: how come all the Africans getting press on the aid debate are conservatives and libertarians? Moyo, Mwenda, Hirsi Ali. The list is getting longer.

All make good points (well, at least Mwenda does) but these hardly strike me as indigenous voices. Most seem to be channeling Milton Friedman. There’s nothing wrong with a little Friedman in your thinking, but is this “authentic Africa” or the product of elite education in the West?

I see two hypotheses: (1) Africans hate aid; and (2) it is easier to get on camera if you are African and hate aid.

I’m going to lean towards… um… number 2.

Where are the Africans on camera with something different to say? Reader suggestions welcome.

In the meantime, I’m happy to see the development blogosphere hotting up. Easterly has been a regular, feisty blogger. The Bottom Billion blog is not bad, even though Collier has yet to make an appearance. Hopefully John and Jeff do not completely give way to other Earth Institute bloggers. My sense: good blogs have personality (ergo, one or two interesting persons). The rest are jumbles, news feeds, or press releases.

14 thoughts on “Jeff Sachs and John McArthur now blogging

  1. “Where are the Africans on camera with something different to say?”

    I can’t imagine there’s much of a story to “African likes aid”. I think most editors/producers would find it to be a dog-bites-man story. It must be hard for pro-aid African scholars to rise above the din and be heard talking thoughtfully about their views on aid.

  2. Having looked at the first link, it is probably not accurate to say that “John and Jeff” are “starting a new blog”. It is the blog of the Earth Institute of Columbia University. Other contributors include Kim Martineau, Kyu Lee, Kevin Krajick and “Editor”. The first welcome post is from Kyu Lee. Thus far Sach’s two contributions are a link to an op-ed on CNN and a BBC interview, neither of which really count as blogging, do they?

  3. Fair point. We’ll have to see. Is this an EI person writing this comment? ;)

  4. Question: What are indigenous voices to your mind? Or authentic Africa?

    I agree that it is easier to get on camera if you are African and against aid than if you are African and a) asking for aid (a la government) or b) supportive of aid. But I’m not sure being widely read (channeling Milton Friedman or otherwise) makes one un-“African” whatever that means.

  5. Alex Coutinho, a Ugandan scientist, has a great blogpost on HuffPo rebutting Moyo’s arguments. Dr. Coutinho is executive director of the Infectious Disease Institute at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.

    I see him as a much more authentic African voice – he still lives and works in Africa. Moyo has done neither in over a decade. I find it interesting that no one is brave enough to point this out. If Moyo wants African governments to stop taking aid, shouldn’t she be going and meeting with Mugabe and other leaders in Africa rather than the donors?

  6. To Anonymous who referenced Alex Countinho, Ms. Moyo has indeed met with African leaders — do a little research.


    I agree with Melina 100%. It appears that Mr. Blattman, who for some time I thought would be a new star in this field, is just another expert want-to-be. He seems more interested in making a name for himself, sitting on panels, and writing research papers than actually helping. He needs Africa to continue down this road for his career’s sake.

  7. I find it amusing that “Anonymous Said” criticizes me for posting anonymously by replying anonymously.

    @Anonymous Said: I think you missed my point – perhaps I was being too subtle. Yes, Moyo recently met with the president of Rwanda, and I was not implying that she has NEVER spoken with African government officials. However, one of the oft-cited anecdotes from her book mentions Western countries’ support of Mobutu and Mugabe.

    I was trying to make the point that going to meet with Mugabe and saying “please stop taking foreign aid and start being accountable to your people instead of murdering and intimidating them” would get you nowhere. Of course it’s easier for her to go on a European/American book tour than to convince dictators to be more “benevolent.”

    Which is what her argument boils down to – that after African countries lose foreign aid they will need benevolent dictators to rule them and make the necessary “sacrifices” to encourage development. And I think she styles herself the perfect candidate for benevolent dictator position.

    Personally, I don’t think all of Moyo’s points are completely off base. But I disagree with her lumping all foreign aid together. Michael Gerson does a good job of summing up most of my main disagreements with Moyo:

  8. How many books on development are written from a conservative point of view about aid by non Africans? Hundreds.

    So what’s the fuss? It seems its not Moyo who is guilty of trying to get on camera but all you guys who focus on nothing more than her Africaness! If i was her i would be pretty pissed off that the focus is her nationality!

    you all sound just slightly jealous of the lime light, and pissed of at the fact that an African has dared to challenge you in your field! Surely we “Africans” should just be passive recipeints, grateful for your wonderful interference that will ultimately lead to our development? Surely we “Africans” should let non Africans dictate the research that dictates the lenders who dictate our national policies? How dare we complain……

  9. For another interesting take on the book the blog People and Development is worth a look

  10. People should end this irrational defense of Ms Moyo. It is almost embarrassing. I think Trevor Manuel said it best. If I was a debt trader Like Moyo would I not be interested in seeing countries collate more debt? I think the conservatives are funding the blitz around Africans like Moyo with hardly original ideas (and who don’t even have the necesary experience to prove their hypothesis. I mean what would you expect from the child of the Chairman of Zambia’s largest bank) There are other more rational voices there like Prof Soludo and Okwonjo Iweala. These people are even more rational becasue they have worked on both sides of the divide. As researchers studying the govt and even as govt officials themselves. Neocons will stop at nothing to prove the perceived supremacy of their ideology even if it must come at the costs of ordinary Africas (like myself). If the whole world wants to hear diverse African voices, they should make the effort to fund it by investing in the education of Africans. For the present I’ll just continue to shake my head everytime Moyo says she is speaking for African because I know she does not speak for me!

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