Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"Dead Aid" - A must read

Photo courtesy of Fanny Schertzer under GNU License 1.2

This article, by Heather Wilheim of Real Clear World, is a must-read for anyone interested in the slightly painful but very important subject of Africa. Although I feel a little funny writing a post about an article about a book, the advantage of this venue is that you can comment on it, and this particular article can easily stand on it's own two feet as a thesis-driven and successful argument without the accompanying book.

A few excerpts:

"One classic aid scenario Moyo outlines is the “micro-macro paradox,” which goes like this: an earnest Silicon Valley billionaire sends hundreds of thousands of mosquito nets to Africa, promptly putting the local mosquito net maker out of business—and, by extension, his ten workers and their 150 dependents. “A short-term efficacious intervention may have few discernible, sustainable long-term benefits,” Moyo writes. “Worse still, it can unintentionally undermine whatever fragile chance for sustainable development may already be in play.” In other words, that Britney Spears t-shirt, donated from good-hearted Westerners, may just put an African weaver out on the street."

"'Indeed,' Moyo writes, 'one could argue that the reason why Zimbabwe’s Mugabe has lasted so long is because he has been propped up by massive foreign aid receipts.'"

"As Moyo puts it, 'If other countries around the developing world have done it sans aid (generated consistent growth, raised incomes and rescued billions from the brink of poverty) why not Africa? Remember that just thirty years ago Malawi, Burundi and Burkina Faso were economically ahead of China on a per capita income basis. A dramatic turnaround is always possible.'"

Whether you agree with it or not, it makes many unique yet strangely common-sensical points almost never heard in the Africa undebate. The article, largely because the book is the same way, can be slightly over judgemental at times ("Bob Geldof wants to send money to Africa “even if it doesn’t work” because he doesn’t have to live with the results"), but otherwise is a nearly flawless rebuttal to the American orthodoxy that Aid = Good Charity. Perhaps we should consider focusing more on our own poor, who we clearly understand better.

Perhaps most damning of all to the African aid crowd is the simple fact (this part's mine) that the nations, in the developing world, which received almost no foreign aid (China, India, Eastern Europe, the Former USSR) are now the best off by far, to the point where they now attract more fear and insecurity then sympathy, and have production levels approaching the wealthiest developing nations. I suppose being an enemy of the United States has it's benefits.


bereezy said...

It's a painful truth, but it needs to be shown. just like proverb about giving a man a fish vs. teaching him to fish, simply giving aid can be a bad thing. It needs to be intelligent aid, working with the people and encouraging them to become self-sufficient. Of course there are situations where the inhabitants need supplies they can't provide for themselves, but if they are receiving everything for free, why would they need to move forward?

Jeremy Janson said...

Not just need to but able to. Can't compete with free.