1. It’s written by an African woman. You may have already read a lot about Africa, its history, challenges, and potential. Chances are, everything you’ve read has been written by non-Africans. Let Dambisa Moyo’s ‘Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working And How There is a Better Way For Africa’ (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York: 2009), change that. Born and educated in Zambia, then trained in economics at Oxford, Harvard, and The World Bank, Moyo is an African woman. This is not the only reason you should read ‘Dead Aid’, but it’s not a bad reason to start with.
2. This is not a feel-good book. But that’s good, because we shouldn’t feel good about Africa. Moyo asks tough questions and makes startling observations that turned the way I look at the wealthy world’s relationship with the impoverished world on its head. Moyo asks why most of the sub-Saharan countries “flounder in a seemingly never-ending cycle of corruption, disease, poverty and aid dependency” in spite of the fact that they’ve received over $300 billion in assistance since 1970. She writes, “Aid has been, and continues to be, an unmitigated political, economic, and humanitarian disaster for most parts of the developing world.’ And yes, she provides the depressing proof. I’ve always thought of aid as a good thing. Moyo’s contention is that, for Africa, aid is what paves the road to hell.
3. If you remember ‘Live Aid’, you probably remember it fondly. (If you’re too young to remember it, I quietly resent your youthfulness). The title of this book is a play on the title of that historic 1985 concert, an extravaganza that kicked off the era of what the author calls ‘Glamour Aid’. We congratulated ourselves on having Live Aid, but Live Aid didn’t work. Why? Because aid isn’t working. And in the book, Moyo goes into great detail why it isn’t working.
4. ‘Dead Aid’ will change the way you think about ‘Africa’. Until I read this book, I thought of Africa as ‘Africa’, a neat little box I don’t have to think about much. In fact, Africa covers 6% of our planet’s surface. It’s home to 56 countries, hundreds of ethnic groups and perhaps as many as 3,000 languages and dialects. This should have occurred to me before, but calling it ‘Africa’ and thinking of it as an homogenous mass just makes it easier to ignore, along with the incalculable toll of human suffering that occurs there daily.
5. ‘Dead Aid’ is about more than what isn’t working. Moyo also poses a solution, and she words it in a way familiar to us here at Manifest. It’s a ‘what if’ question. “What if,” she asks, “one by one, African countries each received a phone call…telling them that in exactly five years the aid taps would be shut off – permanently?” It’s a provocative question that is sure to be unwelcome in many circles. But as Moyo points out, China’s ‘economic miracle’ has been fuelled not by aid, but by foreign direct investment and growth of exports. Why can’t Burundi, for example, do what China did? That’s a question that ‘Dead Aid’ will have you pondering.
6. If you haven’t come across it before (I hadn’t), you’ll read this proverb: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” ‘Dead Aid’ may well change your perception of what ‘planting a tree’ for Africa should involve, today.
7. While devastating in impact, ‘Dead Aid’ is only 188 pages long, including notes, index, and bibliography. For goodness sake, put down ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ long enough to read this provactative book by Dambisa Moyo.