Dead Aid: Bill Gates vs. Dambisa Moyo

Image: Dead Aid by African Economist, Dambisa Moyo (book cover)
Dead Aid by African Economist, Dambisa Moyo

Yellooow Monday! So check this out…we’re reading a book written by an African economist, Dambisa Moyo, called Dead Aid (pictured). We’d heard it mentioned a few times in random conversations so after hearing another reference to it again during a marathon of TED Talks about alleviating poverty and other global issues, we bought the book. We’re now 1/4 of the way through it and have to say, it sure is a one of a kind. We respect the valid points Moyo brings to the table about aid even though yeah, it’s kind of a downer to all the success stories you’re used to hearing about when it comes to aid.

But this weekend we heard something dead wrong about Dead Aid. During a Q&A with Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at the University of New South Wales, a student posed this question:

“Mr.Gates, Dead Aid, a book by Dambisa Moyo, illustrates that giving more aid in Africa over the course of the years did not alleviate poverty. Instead it kept the economy crippled with governments asking for more aid. This flow made a cycle of aid giving which resulted in nothing productive and it has been used to solve nothing except the immediate problems and the money is not being used to make businesses sustainable in Africa. What is the foundation’s view in this regard?”

Gates’ response?

“That book did damage generosity of rich world countries. People have excused various cutbacks because of it…I found she didn’t know much about aid and what aid was doing. She is a critic, there’s not many because it’s moralisticly a tough position to take given what aid has been able to do….having children not die, is not creating a dependency, having children not be so sick that they can’t go to school, not having enough nutrition so their brains don’t develop, that is not a dependency, thats an evil thing. Books like that…they’re promoting evil.”

If you haven’t read the book, or heard about it, Dead Aid is an African economists’ view about why aid isn’t working and offers 4 alternatives to aid in Africa:

  1. “African governments should follow Asian emerging markets in accessing the international bond markets…”
  2. “They should encourage the Chinese policy of large-scale direct investment in infrastructure.”
  3. “They should continue to press for genuine free trade in agricultural products, which means the U.S., the EU and Japan must scrap the subsidies they pay to their farmers, enabling African countries to increase their earnings from primary product exports.”
  4. “They should encourage financial intermediation..,foster the spread of micro-finance institutions…grant inhabitants of shanty towns secure legal title to their homes…and make it cheaper for emigrants to send remittances back home.”

AN AID-FREE SOLUTION TO DEVELOPMENT is what Moyo claims her book is about, versus Gates’ claim that it’s “promoting evil”. Harsh.

So as we launch our social startup, Goodspero, a crowdfunding digital campaign production house for social causes, specifically education…I’m left wondering if supporting education falls into Moyo’s category of “dead aid”. Highly doubtful. As recipients of financial aid, many of us are grateful to have had the opportunity to graduate from college thanks to the help of various donors and as for us, we’ve always used what we’ve learned and applied it to “the real world”…which we’re now using to support youth’s education in developing countries who don’t have access to knowledge as freely as the rest of us.

I’m not sure cutting off aid completely like “shock therapy” as Moyo describes it, is the solution but I do agree that a lot of aid dollars aren’t going where donors intend it to go.

Which is why we love everything going towards open-source, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing. It puts the missions, goals and control back into the hands of the masses, all of us. It’s an open invitation to DO SOMETHING, even if you think you can’t…and most of the time, you’re the only one who thinks that. 😉

So in the end, whatever our personal opinions, we THANK YOU MOYO for this alternative perspective of aid and we’ll continue to read on as we always have with an open mind…the successes AND failures of all things worth noting.

Now back to Chapter 3: Aid Is Not Working.

In case you’re interested, here’s a video of the Q&A with Bill Gates and Moyo’s response:

5 Replies to “Dead Aid: Bill Gates vs. Dambisa Moyo”

  1. I’ve always wondered what the net affect of aid in third world countries were. At one point I never really saw an improvement, but as I understand through various articles I’ve seen and even TED talks is that there has been an improvement. I’m going to agree with Mr. Gates here on this one. Definitely something to think about. I do think we can apply technology a lot better in third world countries to solve problems such as lack of food and water, but that is a long discussion.

    1. Hmmm…have you read Dead Aid? I found it pretty interesting and it definitely has us rethinking our strategies of ‘helping’ the developing world. So much that I actually don’t even like using the words “developing world”. It made me rethink what “development” is…completely different definitions depending on who you talk to. The book definitely had some good points, I don’t think the student asked the question in the most appropriate way…and I definitely don’t think Gates answered in the most sensible way, lol. So far I haven’t read anything that says aid giving resulted in NOTHING productive as the girl put it. But the issue was that in the big picture, it hasn’t alleviated poverty. Gates bringing up saving kids’ lives with vaccines and helping kids be healthy really wasn’t the issue discussed in the book or in the girl’s question at all. I guess that’s why I was surprised by his response. Anyway, for whatever it’s worth, it’s a good read so far. 🙂

      1. I haven’t read it yet but I will. I see what you’re saying. The whole question was out of context and it made it seem like the aid given so far has had no discernible effect which I don’t agree with. I’m curious to see what this other perspective is. I want to see if I can get this in audio format.

    2. I happen to Agree with Moyo, our continent is very resource rich but has the highest mortality and poverty rates in comparison to the rest of the world.I don’t know what the net effects are but I do know that in the 50 years African leaders have been stealing or misusing this aid money, in the past these monies were deposited in the same donors’ banks it the purpose was defeated. The result of this was Wars and even genocide because of the masses discontent or in other cases foreign backed wars. This eventually lead to another form of aid, Humanitarian Aid which prich people in the first world enjoy tax breaks for. I can promise you that we’d have a lot fewer deaths than 14.2 million from wars alone if this aid was simply what it was, aid. But it was more of a weapon of mass destruction. The HIV scourge alone as cost us 22.5 million Malaria should have been our only wory if you do some real research Even that kills hundreds of thousand people annually. All this attracted even more Aid and more dependency.
      So for Gates to sumarily say she is evil is very wrong because she never sold those guns or made sure that the HIV virus spread that far that fast. But that is another argument for another day.
      She is offering a solution to a part to an even bigger problem. Who are we as Africa and where do we belong in this world? 50 years of exports and Aid and the railway line Cecil Rhodes built is now a relic because of so many factors. So what I personally draw from Dr Moyo’s argument is that all this moeny that has come in has not produced so much. If it were a business, it would have shut down 40 years ago. The change and growth the continent has seen is organic and can’t really be stopped, howver it has not been nurtured but has been severely abused. So on the back of all this people here feel like they have no way our or no help or hope, which is why people like Gates become relevant to our continent but they really and truly shouldn’t be.
      I am not saying that their work isn’t important valuable, I am saying it shouldn’t be necessary because at the end of the day it is money, and it can always be put to better use. If this money is invested in productivity, agriculture and industry, we would be having a different argument today. Aid has developed a cancerous addiction to aid which is essentially not letting our ecoomies grow but is simply sustaining them. But then again, you should read the book. As a common African, I think we have been dealt a very poor hand and forced to bet all we own. My country right now has one of the youngest populations in the world and I don’t see us building wealth from aid no matter what form it comes in. When I speak of wealth i mean our countries being able to sustaint Their Health, Education and Agriculture and Industry without external controls or strings, we should be also able to plan ahead and boast of these fancy stock exchanges and “markets” rather than worry about where ones next meal will come from the worry should be if . Just my thoughts

      1. Interesting take afrozed. As a side note…many people here in the US live without healthcare and continued education and MANY MANY also worry where our next meal will come from. It’s not often an obvious issue but the cost of living and the cost of “social norms” here is so high that people give up meals often just to pay bills. When we travel to other countries we admire the lifestyles of those working for so little but they have so much more in terms of time to spend with family, doing things with/for their communities, etc. People know their neighbors by name. Don’t get us wrong, we’re grateful to have been raised in the US for many reasons (mainly education) but that’s why we’re dedicated to supporting education in other countries where there is no access to educational resources or the internet. Giving youth the resources to learn the trade or topic of their interest creates unmeasurable opportunities. All of us have the potential to better our communities…so we want to “recycle” the tools/resources unused by others to youth who would otherwise not have that opportunity of mere self education. We agree that Africans, Asians, or anyone else for that matter have the best answers for their own countries and natives know better than anyone else what needs there are and how to go about solving them. “Aid” in the form of education and educational support is where we are focusing our efforts. Working TOGETHER not FOR one another.

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