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Q&A: Dambisa Moyo on aid damaging Africa

April 7, 2009

Two weeks ago, I posted on an article in The Wall Street Journal about the crippling effects of aid to Africa. I came across an interview of the author of that column, Dambisa Moyo, who just released a book on the subject: Dead Aid:Why Aid is not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa.

Here’s Moyo in an exchange on celebrity aid:

Guernica: In your book, you discuss the different eras of aid. The money started flowing in the post-war years to keep African countries friendly to the U.S. You go on to describe the 2000s as the decade of “Glamour Aid,” and you’re critical of Bono and Bob Geldoff, in particular. Do you feel these celebrities who are beating the drum for increased aid—and in doing so, drawing attention to themselves as well as the cause—are acting out of paternalism and perhaps egoism rather than true altruism?

Dambisa Moyo: First of all, I talk very little about the celebrities [in Dead Aid]. To focus on them is to miss the point. There are three things I want to say about celebrities and “Glamour Aid.” First, I don’t think they’re right. I may have been more sympathetic if they were pushing an agenda for more trade or more foreign direct investment, but the fact that they’re pushing for an additional fifty billion dollars [in aid] illustrates to me that they don’t understand economics and perhaps do not add value to the debate. It certainly worries me that they’re getting more airtime than they should. The second point is that in the aid model, you disenfranchise Africans because the governments are not held accountable. The fact that there was a vacuum big enough for these celebrities to step in and speak, ostensibly, on behalf of the African continent is worrying. Africans stand in the hot African sun to elect their leaders, not celebrities.

Here’s the whole interview in Guernica.

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