Why Are So Many People Against African Self-Reliance?

In Foreign Affairs, Global, Women on May 27, 2009 at 1:47 am


I just don’t get it.  While Dambisa Moyo’s bestselling book Dead Aid has been on the market for months, she continues to be bashed by the mostly liberal side of the political spectrum for her views on African aid.  For anyone unaware of Ms. Moyo’s argument, the premise of her book is that aid has not resulted in any economic or human development improvements for Africa.  She makes a compelling argument.  Sixty odd years ago, China was poorer than most African countries.  Today, it’s the reverse.  In fact, Ms. Moyo states in many speeches she has given throughout her book tour (and according to my research) many countries that have made significant gains within the global economy did it without the help of massive amounts of aid.

Somehow, the liberal organizations and proponents of aid who are supposed to be “pro-Africa” have demonized Ms. Moyo, stating that she wants to allow babies to starve and die of malaria.  First, even I, who has only made it through a few chapters of the book due to my workload, has read far enough into the book to note that Ms. Moyo specifically targets bilateral aid- the monetary transfers from international organizations such as the IMF and other governments such as the U.S.  Even with this specific statement, I have read editorials time and time again that state she wants to cut off humanitarian aid and the like.  Even on her tours Ms. Moyo has stated that that is not the case.

Secondly, I find it curious that those who seem to want to help Africa dismiss the argument of a woman who clearly has the same intention.  This woman is from the continent, versed in the theory of markets and business, has degrees from some of the top universities of the world and personally supports people on the continent like many professional members of the diaspora do.  She is not some “Joe the Plumber” who has some sort of fake authority on the subject matter.  So why are these mostly white males so dismissive of her argument?

What Ms. Moyo is calling for, what she is advocating, is black self-reliance.  What she is simply stating is that if China, and India and Brazil and Russia can pull themselves up, why not Africa?  Is it that Ms. Moyo challenges the mindset of the West looking down on the “poor Africans”?  Is it because this is an African woman telling the West that they’ve had it wrong for sixty years?  Technically, Ms. Moyo’s argument is not even new.  Have you ever heard of The White Man’s Burden by William Easterly? 

Curiously, even as the attacks against Ms. Moyo mount, so do the praises as Africans themselves are lining up to listen.  Ms.  Moyo has met several times with Rwanda’s President and even with members of her home country Zambia’s government.  So hopefully the thought of “African solutions for African problems” will spread and take hold.

And with this, I’d like to send a message to Ms. Moyo.  A friend of mine one had a quote.  He said something to the effect of, “If you’re doing something and you have no haters, then I suggest you stop what you’re doing right now because it’s not working for you”.  Ms. Moyo, keep going.  Dedicate a song to Mr. Sachs and keep at it.  We appreciate your presence and contribution to the argument.  It’s about time that the West see a visibly African face speaking up for African people.

Huffington Post- Aid Ironies: A Response to Jeffrey Sachs


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