Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Moyo's Aversion to Aid, and Governance Issues in Africa

Heh. I never saw this edition of BBC Hardtalk with aid critic and author of Dead Aid Dambisa Moyo slugging it out with Allison Evans of the Overseas Development Institute.

Moyo held her own in this debate, but one cannot deny that Allison Evans dealt a real blow to her thesis here: One has to accept for want of proof that there's no correlation between aid and economic growth, let alone a negative impact that Moyo argues. Evans' argument also fell short, though; she tries to de-link bad governance and not having aid work, which I think you can't. If aid is going to work for a large population, you'd have to make sure that the government has the political will to do so. A government cannot have the political will to do so if it's more accountable to foreign governments and aid agencies than the people who need the aid.

Still, if you were to phase out aid, you'd be working under the assumption that governance will somehow have gotten more accountable to its people. Will it? One can see glimmers of this in some places. Nigeria has seen a few governors who are doing and have done good work (Bola Tinubu, Donald Duke, Fashola, et al). As economies develop, perhaps we will see governors getting younger and/or more involved in business in their countries, thereby aligning their interest to make profit and creating a good environment to do so through policy and governance mechanisms. The era where Europe and America can pay off some military bonehead like they did with Mobutu and Idi Amin to come into power is largely over (I hope), but it did leave an old guard of people who are used to power and not likely to leave. But as we see in Guinea, Niger, Eritrea, and Egypt -- and to a lesser extent in Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Nigeria -- this era has not come to an end everywhere. I don't have any answers for what the best development model is going forward, but I seriously doubt that within a 5 or 10 year time-frame all African leaders would suddenly care a damn about their people enough to come up with development strategies for their betterment. In her quieter moments, I'm sure Dambisa Moyo would too.


  1. Seems that foreign governments are also increasing their aid to local NGOs as an alternative. What do you think?

  2. I heard about that, and it seems a bit defeatist - we can't do anything about the governance issues so let's work around it. It's nice that they're trying to make people "own" the new initiatives by using local NGOs, but the capacity for NGOs in African countries tends to be pretty minimal. There's just no replacing good governance, and I'm not sure how one goes about even trying.