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%