Dambisa Moyo and Aid to Africa [Week 7]

1. Moyo’s Alternative Sources for Funding African Economies:

a. African governments should use Asian markets as a model for accessing international markets.

b. Africa should follow in China in their large investments in infrastructure.

c. Africa should strive for free trade concerning agricultural productions.

d. Africa should move towards financial intermediation.

I think using China as a model is a viable option for Africa. Although Moyo defines later on in the readings that democracy has had positive affects, it doesn’t prioritize what the African people need to be prioritized. Things like healthcare, education, food–those are priorities for the African people, more so above structure and policy that democracy can tend to emphasize.

2. In the history of aid, richer, more developed nations played a big part of aid. In Dead Aid, Moyo addresses aid agendas by the decade. While aid to Africa by major nations all had politically-backed interests, the one that surprised me the most was the Cold War battle of aid between the U.S and the USSR. I knew that African had been rife with regimes at one point, and that these regimes were responsible for corruption, brutality, and crimes against humanity. I didn’t know that man regimes were funded due to the conflicting interests of these nations. It seemed like in their quest to “save’ Africa with aid, they only financed its destruction.

3. I personally don’t know much about the Washington Consensus, aside from what Moyo mentions in Chapter 2 of Dead Aid. To my understanding, it offered a pre-established set of policy reforms and financial suggestions that, while controversial,  were accepted and put into practice by institutions like the World Bank.

4. Something that stood out to me was a statement that George Ayittey made when asked about his comments on Moyo’s Dead Aid. He gives some of the many reasons that aid to Africa is not working (similar to Moyo), but he says something at the end that caught my attention.

“Africa is poor because it is not free.”

Ayittey gives a list of six institutions that Africa could use, and I think that within each of these potential institutions lies a crucial freedom that African people need. For example, Ayittey proposes an “efficient and professional civil service”, which would allow people to receive critical services with freedom from the worry of discrimination. If Africa’s people are not free from the institutional chains that bind them, then they will continue to be poor, like Ayittey states.

In Dambisa Moyo’s TED talk, she poses China as the new economic model that countries are seeking to follow, which I wasn’t aware of either. According to her, China offers a model of economic growth that outshines the offerings of democracy, which in some instances, does not present countries with a sustainable model to pursue the economic development that they wish.

5. When Moyo (2009) alludes to the fact that some voices “can’t compete with an electric guitar”, she is pointing out that critical voices can not be heard in the celebrity spotlight that constantly seems to shine on aid (p. 27). Many celebrities take on causes and issues in the hopes of raising aid for a country, but much of their causes and perspectives are the only ones heard due to their star power. This drowns out necessary voices in the sphere of aid.

Kagame also points out an error in the way aid has operated for the past few years. Earlier on, Moyo mentions the Cold War and how the U.S and the USSR battled for the dominance of democracy and communism. In a way, Kagame suggests, they used Africa as a playing field, financing regimes without considering the potential consequences (p. 27).

6. Moyo gives quite a few reasons as to why aid isn’t working, but the two that stand out most to me are the historical and tribal reasoning. Africa has many diverse groups that in the process of the Berlin Conference, were grouped together without thought for the consequences. I do think that this was an original source of discontent within some African nations–when the citizens don’t get along, policy and aid can prove to be ineffective. This concept, coupled with the perception of Africans and dependent and unable to sustain without intervention,  just slows the pace at which a country can peacefully grow and find sustainability.

She also points out the tribal argument–that because of the diverse ethnic groups residing within Africa, in can be difficult to maintain impartiality in major governmental and national institutions. But as she quickly points out, this type of reasoning can not be blamed, since people function in cities and neighborhoods today without disruptive tribal dispute (p. 33). I don’t find her argument as clear here, since she gives many reasons why these factors can be discounted but it seems like they are more contributed to Africa’s struggle as a whole, outside of the effect of aid.

7. In my opinion, Moyo doesn’t give any specific solutions to how to overcome geographic, historical, cultural, tribal, and institutional barriers. She certainly shows how these issues have held back Africa in terms of development, but she gives one over-arching argument that I think applies: no matter what the barrier, it is nothing that African can’t overcome. In the case of historical and tribal conflicts, there are still many nations that have yet to find peace in the calamity. But as Moyo points out, there are several that have (p. 33). It’s the mindset that these barriers cannot be broken that is a problem.

In Burkina Faso, there is a deeply-rooted belief in witchcraft, a direct result of which widowed women/vulnerable people are thrown out or mistreated because of accusations. A large part of this is believed to be caused by poverty among people and the notion one less person can create on an already stressed system. However, legislation and organizations have emerged as a support system, because people recognize the harm that it’s doing. With any problem, you must recognize the problem and then move to fix it.

8. A major difference to me between Sachs and Moyo is that Sachs focuses on specific tasks that can be completed by the public/private sectors. Moyo focuses more on what can be done on the large-scale. I think in some respects Sachs’ plan could make more sense, since parceling out aid funds into projects leaves less room for corruption, unlike the large-infrastructure plans that Moyo proposes, which even she herself sources as a weakness.


Moyo, D. (2009). Dead aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa. Penguin Books.


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