Date Book Review: Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo Author’s background Having completed a PhD in Economics at Oxford University in 2002, Dambisa Moyo is widely recognized for her literary works as an international economist…
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Book Review Published in 2009, Dead Aid openly challenges the notion that international aid to African economies, as a development policy is helpful. Moyo relays a distinct contrast between African countries that have rejected foreign aid and those that have accepted it over time. What comes out is that the latter is suffering more as such countries have become reliant on aid and, therefore, are in a position of continually needing more aid. Her argument is because aid-reliant countries or those that receive aid-related assistance have suffered a decline in economic growth and increased poverty levels. The initial part of her argument is that, if governments had to depend on private financial markets and revenue from taxes, they would be accountable to lenders and voters respectively. She likens aid to oil, which dominant elites are using to misappropriate public revenues. She uses her own country of origin-Zambia and other African countries, to illustrate where she states that interventions brought about by foreign aid resulted in a rise in poverty up to 66% between 1970 and 1998 when foreign aid was at its peak. Further, she states that foreign aid, in fact, promotes corruption and misuse of such funds, as they are ‘free’. This she denotes using the example of Mobutu in Zaire where he looted an estimated $5 trillion. A majority of African leaders are known to be corrupt thus funds donated or lent out for development purposes have been looted or squandered. Moyo’s view is that foreign aid promotes corruption and this has resulted in the vicious cycle of reliance on the same (Moyo 49). Central to her argument is that African governments should make a shift to financial markets, foreign and domestic markets combined, as a source for funds for development. This is because borrowing from these markets requires credit rating, which in turn implies transparency and discretion. Making transparency and prudence common practice, according to her, is just as crucial as funds for development (Moyo 78-79). However, this is an optimistic view as the opportunity for accessing such funding is lacking. This is heavily due to the global crisis from which both U.S and Europe are still reeling. It has become necessary for potential sources of finance to exercise caution hence avoid all risky situations such as lending to developing countries. In addition, she gives a mosquito anecdote to illustrate opportunity cost and the law of unintended consequences, which bring out that some potential, has to be sacrificed for every action and consequences may be foreseen for every action. This she uses to evidence the negative effect that widespread corruption in a majority of African countries has on economic growth, such corruption hampers social capital and foreign investment (Moyo 44). It is clear that donor aid is not beneficial to developing African countries in the long term as it breeds a culture of over-dependency and promotes corruption. Therefore, an alternative to these needs to be established although cutting off completely such aid should not be an immediate action. According to Moyo, one is more likely to be cautious and prudent with money they have worked for as opposed to money that has been given to them freely. This implies that stringent conditions may be attached to foreign aid as a development policy. Stringent in the sense that a larger part of the money should be paid back and a sense of accountability instituted. In addition, a time frame of when
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Aid is described as a corrupting agent and a parasitic contagion and goes further to relate it with biological metaphors, which refers African economy as physiological organism. According to research, Africa receives the highest potion of foreign aid, which is approximated to 2 trillion US dollars in the past years.
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