MOST people in the west, in their
blogs, have often attacked Dambisa Moyo personally and not professionally. But
clearly, she is not interested in personal attacks.
This, she revealed on her recent visit to Zambia,
where she held two public talks at the Ridgeway Sun and the Pamodzi
A member of the audience questioned her thoughts on aid when she
does not live in Africa.
Her response? "Next question." And that is
typical of Dambisa. Indeed colouring criticism with personal attacks is a tried
and tested way of side-stepping the issues and providing a smoke screen when
faced with a valid argument.
Jeffrey Sachs used this tactic recently in
one of his postings. In responding to her former lecturer at Harvard, she
exclusively argued professionally. In other words, she gave Sachs the
professional courtesy that he failed to give his fellow economist.
talked about how development is not that hard, and how there is now over 300
years of evidence of what works (and what does not) in increasing growth,
alleviating poverty and suffering.
For instance, she says it is
well-known that there are countries that finance development and create jobs
through trade and encouraging foreign (and domestic) investment
And more importantly for her, there is no country anywhere in the
world that has meaningfully reduced poverty and spurred significant and
sustainable levels of economic growth by relying on aid.
history has shown us that by encouraging corruption, creating dependency,
fueling inflation, creating debt burdens and disenfranchising Africans (to name
a few), an aid-based strategy hurts more than it helps.
"It is true that
interventions such as the Marshall plan in Europe and the Green Revolution in
India played vital roles in economic (re)construction.
"However, the key
and (often ignored) difference between such aid interventions and those plaguing
Africa today is that the former were short, sharp and finite, whereas the latter
are open-ended commitments with no end in sight," she says.
with an open-ended system, she argues, is that African governments have no
incentive to look for other, and better ways of financing their
And how does she know this? Well, partly because she was
taught so by Mr Sachs while she was studying at Harvard, during which he
propounded the view that the path to long-term development would only be
achieved through private sector involvement and free market
"Perhaps what I had not gleaned at that time was that Mr
Sachs' development approach was made for countries such as Russia, Poland and
Bolivia, whereas the aid- dependency approach, with no accompanying job
creation, was reserved for Africa," Dambisa says.
She also takes issue
that Mr Sachs chooses to ignore that relying on aid at a time when the United
States is facing 10 per cent unemployment rate and Germany (another leading
donor) could contract by as much as six per cent, is a fool hardy
The aid interventions that Mr Sachs lauds as evidence of
success are merely band aid solutions that do nothing to lift Africa out of the
mire - leaving the continent alive but half drowning, still unable to climb out
on its own.
Yes, she agrees that an aid-funded scholarship will send a
girl to school, but that should not delude anyone that such largesse will make
her country grow at the requisite growth rates to meaningfully put a dent in
For her, this is not surprising because Africa is on the whole
worse off today than it was 40 years ago citing the case of the 1970s when less
than 10 per cent of Africa's population lived in dire poverty and yet today,
over 70 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than US$2 a day.
But her more fundamental point is what kind of an
African society is being built when virtually all public goods including
education, health care, infrastructure and even security are paid for by Western
Someone has also accused her that she would see nothing
wrong with denying US$10 in aid to an African child for an anti-malarial bed
net. In fact, the label is that she is cruel.
"I say, if working towards
a sustainable solution where Africans can make their own anti-malaria bed-nets
thereby creating jobs for Africans and a real chance for continents economic
prospects rather than encouraging all and sundry to dump malaria nets across the
continent which incidentally, put Africans out of business, then I am guilty as
"Don't forget that the over 60 per cent of Africans that are
under the age of 24 need jobs not sympathy," she says.
There has also
been a misrepresentation that she suggests the best way forward. But she
It is a mixture of trade, foreign direct investment, capital
markets, the bond market, remittances and micro-finance. It is basically
fostering a private sector investment into these economies so you actually get
The fundamental problem with the aid model for her is that
there are no jobs being created for Africans. It is a band-aid
With over 60 per cent of Africa's population being under the
age of 24, and needing jobs, she fears creating a continent of pirates or young
people with no opportunities.
For Dambisa, it is critically important
that people understand that Africans want what Westerners want.
soon should the taps on aid be turned-off? Or how soon, how suddenly and how
completely should they be turned off?
This is clearly a question that she
appreciates because she feels that she has been completely misrepresented
especially by the non-governmental organisation (NGO) community.
a five-year example in my book. Very foolishly, the NGOs have jumped on that and
said aid should be stopped immediately or, in the worst case, within five years.
I'm not saying that at all.
"What I am saying is we need to have an exit
strategy. Aid can, perhaps, only work when we know the tap will be turned off at
"We need a phase-out plan to make sure that African
governments can wean themselves off of aid. I have also said that countries have
very different levels of economic development.
"My own home country, Zambia, is at a very different
level than say, Ghana, or Kenya, or Somalia for that matter. You cannot have one
blanket exit strategy for all of these countries," she says.
But with her
becoming a New York Times bestseller and being named by TIME magazine as one of
the 100 most influential people in the world, does she have many people
objecting to her ideas?
"The pushback tends to come from a minority group
in the Western countries.
"By that I mean the NGOs. Some NGOs, rather
than have a debate about it, they prefer to label me a genocide maniac or try to
take pot shots or make personal attacks ... I understand they are very
interested in keeping the status quo because that is where their jobs are," she
Now that is a person who has made the survival of Africa her