Saturday, January 31, 2009

An African Economist on Western Aid to Africa

In a recent post ("The UN High Commissioner of Refugees Imitates The Onion"), we mentioned the NYU development economist William Easterly, who has been critical of traditional Western approaches to providing aid to Africa and other parts of the developing world. Coincidentally, today's Lunch with the FT interview in the Financial Times is with a Zambian-born economist, Dambisa Moyo, who seems to share Easterly's disdain of traditional aid approaches ("Lunch with the FT: Dambisa Moyo"). In fact, Moyo says that African countries would be better off if they were given a warning that foreign aid would be cut off in five years, and were forced to seek funds from the bond market instead. Moyo argues that bond investors would impose a discipline on African governments that aid donors so far haven't. Herewith, a few brief excerpts:

[A]s the historian Niall Ferguson (a contributing editor to the FT), notes in a foreword to Moyo’s book, she is venturing into a debate that has to date been colonised by white men – be they rock stars such as Bono, politicians such as Tony Blair or the academics Jeffrey Sachs and Bill Easterly.


So what of the rock and Hollywood stars, who have appointed themselves advocates of making poverty history? She is withering: “Most Brits would be irritated if Michael Jackson started offering advice on how to resolve the credit crisis. Americans would be put out if Amy Winehouse went to tell them how to end the housing crisis. I don’t see why Africans shouldn’t be perturbed for the same reasons,” she replies


We finish with a coffee. Moyo’s book ends on an equally energising note, that of an African proverb: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”


Jimmy Carter said...

This is the first place America came start saving money.

Cut off all foreign aid.

Other countries resent us for it and we can;t afford it anymore.

DaveinHackensack said...

Foreign aid represents about 0.7% of the federal budget, so don't expect cutting foreign aid to change the fiscal picture much.