Is Dambisa Moyo right that AID to Africa be cut off in the next 5 years? If you are in the “yay” camp, are we ready for it? To the “nay-sayers,” are we just lazy, cowards who refuse to be weaned from the global “AID-to Africa” welfare state?
Turning off the AID tap
By Nmachi Jidenma
On celebrities, messianism and the “feel-good” movement
In its interview with Dambisa Moyo early this year, the NYT called her the Anti-Bono. I am not sure she’s the Anti-Bono so much as she is the anti-pity. She argues that though there are a billion Chinese who live in substandard conditions, China does not have to endure the pitiful condescencion of the West. I suspect the issue here is that China at least has had a strong development strategy and has stuck to its plan. Africa, on the other hand, has limped all the way— intiative after initiative…
I am also not sure how hard it is to pity a continent that appears to suffer from habitual relapses of socio-economic epilepsy. Don’t get me wrong, I in no way endorse, embrace or empathize with African denigration. I denounce it with as much fervour as Moyo’s denunciation of aid. However, I am of the opinion that the world pities Africa because she gives the world too much bad news to talk about…too often. The good, (of course, exists), but in relative terms, it might not suffice. Of course, I hear dissenters screaming that it is the MSM’s fault. Perhaps. But I think they will get with the times if it becomes obvious that good news on the continent trumps the bad…that, or the rest of the world will get with the times…at least, I’m sure TED will; besides, there’s always youtube…
That being said, we need more Moyos. Period. Not in terms of denouncing aid but in terms of speaking from a platform the world can pay attention to. She complains that she hates the fact that glamour activists have consciously or inadvertently assumed the role of global spokespeople for the entire continent. That worries me too. Why don’t we hear more from African governments about their 3 point plans? Where is the agency? Our lukewarm participation in the conversation is probably what gives glamour activists the temerity to speak on behalf of and for the continent. The echoes down the hall are self evident. Can we blame them?
Be careful what you wish for: Distinguishing the obvious from the insensitive
Moyo repeatedly asserts that it is obvious to most economists that aid is not working. Perhaps this is obvious, but it is not obvious that aid is the problem. She appears to attack aid from an incentive angle -i.e., African governments have no incentive to be disciplined because they can always depend on aid and Africans have not risen up against their governments because their governments depend not on tax revenue but on aid. Maybe. But one thing is for sure. If aid is cut off, many Africans will die.
The tyranny of the elites
Cutting aid and consequently, inciting some form of African revolution may work but what happens in the interim when humanitarian crises spreads like a contagion across the continent? Is this even necessary? Why encourage the suffering of millions to awaken the people’s inner tigers? Are we that docile?
My problem with this prescription is that it sounds easy to say, but how about living it? Can Moyo live it? Anyone can talk from a pedestal, but consider visualizing the grassroot effects in real terms. We are talking of millions of deaths. Possibly, an African self-inflicted genocide…
Moyo suggests a 5-year timeline to cut off aid to the continent. 5 years from now will be 2014 — a year shy of 2015— the magic year for the United Nations Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). With aid, will the goals be met? Certainly not at the pace we are going— but, most likely, considerable progress will be achieved. However, by turning off the aid faucet over the next 5 years, I shudder to think of the possible outcome. A dissenting opinion might retort that initiatives like the MDGs are part of the problem as they stifle African agency and encourage homeland docility.
But that is missing the point. Why must we allow global actions to influence our collective attitude? If the UN initiates the MDGs, can we not work in partnership with them to make it a reality?
“My heart is in Africa”
The way out has to be a policy that encourages greater African agency—and it must be a policy that does not have to rely on starving the people to death so that they get angry enough to cut off their leaders’ heads. Whatever happened to investing in a mass mobilization of Africans, by Africans to demand accountability from their officials? Aid and African political participation need not be mutually exclusive but should be viewed as a joint means of effecting change.
By now, shouldn’t we all be hungry, angry and tired? Aren’t we sick of being the bowl in hand beggar waiting for crumbs at the foot of the G-20 table?
My heart aches… I am weary.
Dead Aid: Why Aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa
Bono Beware: Dambisa Moyo on Aid, Microfinance and the problem of celebs in Africa
Lunch with the Financial Times: Dambisa Moyo
Aiding is Abetting: An interview with Dambisa Moyo