Fraser Nelson

An important voice on African development

An important voice on African development
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Ever noticed how the debate on African development is colonised by white men? I've just finished a book on the subject by Dambisa Moyo, an African woman, and it's a brilliant indictment of the aid industry which, she agues, does more harm than good in her native continent. Moyo is Zambian born, bred and educated and has worked for the World Bank and then as an economist for Goldman Sachs. Her book, Dead Aid, argues that the $billions the West has ploughed into Africa have simply led to a new sort of corruption; have served in a disincentive to economic development; and are more geared to make politicians and pop stars feel good about themselves than actually help Africa transform itself as South East Asia has.

Almost as striking as the book is the reaction to it. The Independent hired her old tutor, to say that she "cannot be dismissed as a crank" - as if her argument is a self-evident absurdity of the flat-earth variety.  In The Times, Parminder Bahra - now its poverty and development correspondent - denounces her "blind faith in the market". Yet this is a book in the same vein as those by Hernando De Soto and William Easterly. Even Kofi Anan says it is a "compelling case for a new approach to Africa". Niall Ferguson, in the introduction, says the reader is left wanting "more Moyo and less Bono" - a bit unfair to Bono, I thought, who does actually say corruption is a greater problem to Africa than Aids or poverty.

The idea that cash solved problems was the central failure of the Blair-Brown era. Cameron needs to move on, nationally and internationally. At a time when the Tories are still planning to raise taxes to meet Ted Heath's old target of having 0.7% of GDP devoted to aid, Moyo has written a punchy, 154-page book that deserves a place on Cameron's next reading list for his team.

Here's an extract:

"Has more than $1 trillion in development assistance over the last several decades made African people better off? No. In fact, across the globe, the recipients of aid are much worse off. Aid has helped make the poor poorer, and growth slower. Yet aid remains a centrepiece of today's development policy and one of the biggest ideas of our time. The notion that aid can alleviate systematic poverty, and has done so, is a myth. Millions in Africa are poorer today because of aid. It has been, and continues to be, an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster for parts of the developing world."

P.S. Interview with Moyo on Sky here, if you can stomach the 15-second ad.

P.P.S.  I found that 2005 Bono quote: "This is the number-one problem facing Africa, corruption; not natural calamity, not the AIDS virus. This is the number-one issue and there´s no way around it. That´s what was so clever about President Bush´s Millennium Challenge. It was start-up money for new democracies. It was giving increases of aid flows only to countries that are tackling corruption"

Hat-tip: Simon Mayo, who pushed the book in my direction.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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