May 31, 2009
In her new book, Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo claims that aid to Africa has done nothing to alleviate poverty on the continent and it should be shut off in five years.
It’s a provocative book, with some important points about the critical need for greater trade and investment, two things we support and have worked for several years to increase. But Moyo’s claims on aid don’t hold up and her proposal to cut off aid to Africa would quite literally lead to the deaths of millions of Africans. Even at current assistance levels, there isn’t enough AIDS medicine for everyone who needs it in Africa and health care workers have to decide who lives and who dies for lack of pills costing less than 50 cents a day.
Unfortunately, while Dead Aid has been getting a lot of buzz, it hasn’t been getting much, if any, scrutiny.
Here are the facts on the aid Moyo claims has never done any good:
- since 2002, more than 2 million Africans who might have otherwise died are on life-saving anti-AIDS medication;
- between 2005 and 2007, in Rwanda and Ethiopia malaria cases and deaths were more than cut in half thanks to a dramatic increase in bed nets and access to anti-malaria medication.
- since 1999, 34 million more African children are going to school for the first time;
All of these successes are directly attributable to a combination of increasingly effective aid, improved African governance, targeted debt relief and the hard work of people in Africa.
Development assistance is not a panacea, but targeted aid has a positive role to play in promoting development in the poorest countries – especially at this time of global economic crisis — alongside other prerequisites for progress: trade, private investment and improved governance.
On the question of economic growth, the growth that Sub-Saharan Africa needs will require a significant increase in aid, not a reduction. Accessing markets and attracting investment require healthy, educated populations as well as infrastructure like roads, electricity and technological capacity. In recent years, development assistance had played a critical role in supporting these inputs to help many African countries to help them better reap the benefits or trade and investment.
At ONE, we always advocate for a kind of aid which not only delivers results, but also strengthens national governance by supporting citizen efforts to hold their governments accountable. Moyo’s proposals would also dramatically cut funding for these vital democratic processes.
Moyo has said that African voices are not being heard enough on the world stage. We could not agree more. In talking to the Africans we work with, people working on the ground in clinics, small business and schools, we found a lot of concern about Moyo’s proposals.
See comments on aid by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post and from Alex Coutinho, a champion in the fight against AIDS in Uganda.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, The Washington Post, April 9, 2009:
“The citizens and leaders of donor nations should recognize how important their assistance has been to the new leadership in Africa and how appreciative most Africans are for this partnership. Critics say that African economies are shrinking, that poverty is rising and that failing aid is the culprit. But this argument is at least a decade out of date. Africa’s turnaround is real, the evidence indisputable. Africans themselves have been the key to this reversal, but more effective aid has played an important role. Reducing aid would slow private-sector growth, stall poverty reduction, and undermine peace and stability in countries that are struggling to become part of the global economy.
Dr. Alex Coutinho, Executive Director, Infectious Disease Institute, Uganda, March 2009:
“In the area of HIV the world has seen a remarkable partnership between nations and individuals that has saved 3 million lives and prevented 10 million orphans. The irresponsible suggestion by Ms. Moyo that western aid be stopped in 5 years would result in death on a genocidal scale. Moyo should come back to the real Africa and see what smart aid can achieve.”
Read a rebuttal to this article’s argument:
- March 29, 2009 – “Untrue accusations by ONE against Dambisa Moyo and Dead Aid” [PDFver here] – David Grundy