Chris Blattman

Dead Aid: DOA

Tukapamoja points me to the complete reviews on (NamibianZambian-born) Dambisa Moyo’s new book, Dead Aid. My impression of the book is a linear combination of three:

Michela Wrong:

In the past, Africans might privately wax cynical about western aid policy, but they were content to leave the public debate to be waged by Irish pop stars, American celebrities and paunchy white men in suits… Moyo belongs to an emerging generation of articulate, self-confident and angry Africans who are now doing just that.

Paul Collier:

I doubt that many of Africa’s problems can be attributed to aid. It is, in my view, something of a sideshow. Because it lends itself to a simple morality story of guilt and reparation, it receives more attention than is warranted. Paradoxically, despite her radically different argument, Moyo has ended up with the same punchline as the conventional, politically correct diagnosis: Africa’s problems are the consequence of our transgressions.

And perhaps most of all, The Economist:

Dead Aid does not move the debate along much. Yes, she has joined the chorus of disapproval — and that in itself might surprise a few diehards who think that Africans should just be grateful for the aid and shut up. But her arguments are scarcely original and her plodding prose makes her the least stylish of the critics. Moreover, she overstates her case, almost to the point of caricature.

The argument for more benevolent dictators struck me as a good example of overstating the case. Are they on sale somewhere? “Get your benevolent dictators here!” Many would love to conjure African Lee Kwan Yews, I’m sure. The record speaks for itself, I’m afraid.

7 Responses

  1. oh and how does LKY = dictator actually work out? im sensitive to definition. im hoping Yale doesn’t teach it’s kids that there’s no rule of law in Singapore but the golden word of LKY.

  2. LKY made the decision to forego American-defined ‘liberty’ in place of economic growth, development and prosperity. This is something which no African leader has done till date. LKY the ‘dictator’ does not self-aggrandise.

    Yet, Singapore is hardly in a comparable geographic location than Namibia or Zambia. Sg was (and still is) fortunate to be pegged tightly to the East Asian economic giants who have a vested interest to see south-east asia develop and prosper. That, is something starkly lacking in the case of Africa. It is also important to note that Asia did not rise because of ‘shock therapy’ to a free and unfettered open economy in the initial stages.

  3. Just because benevolent dictators are hard to find doesn’t dismiss them. But they have to be benevolent and right, Nyerere was benevolent, but totally screwed up Tanzania’s development. Heck if Mugabe had a heart attack in the early 90s we might be talking about him today like Lee Kwan Yews.

  4. Oops. Thanks. This is the problem of blogging at home when the book is at work.

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