Ed 's Reviews > Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa

Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo
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's review
Oct 15, 10

it was ok
bookshelves: africa, development-and-its-enemies

This little book has been a hit with economists who think that the only solution to grinding third world (African) poverty must be market-based. While it makes good points--particularly that humanitarian aid to Africa hasn't worked as a way to start economic development--those points get lost in Moyo's scattershot approach and lack of documentation. I am sure she has read everything available on the subject but there is no bibliography and only sketchy notes so she doesn't tell us where she got her ideas or even her facts. Her style is a real problem--she slides from analysis to polemic without transition so that it is sometimes difficult to tell whether she is asserting an opinion or citing evidence based findings.

Moyo seems smart as a whip with courage of her convictions and a fierce loyalty to her homeland, Zambia, and to sub-Saharan Africa generally. She is an energetic advocate but not a very convincing one. Her combination of African heritage and attacks on received wisdom (although she demolishes a few strawmen along the way) means that she has a good story, ready made for soundbites, helped along in our media obsessed Western culture by the fact that she is (based on author photos in the book and on the net) staggeringly attractive. If a more typical holder of her credentials--excellent degrees from Harvard and Oxford, positions at Goldman Sachs and the World Bank--had presented this book for publication he/she may well have been told to come back when it was actually a book and not an intermediate draft that needed more work. And a lot of copy editing--Moyo is not a particularly felicitous writer.

She doesn't spare the West in her list of what is wrong and how to fix it, going after the important issues like trade barriers, subsidies and immigration restrictions and is particularly hard on her fellow Africans pointing out that humanitarian aid makes control of a government valuable and so encourages armed rebellion, civil war and the horrors of mass population relocation. Succeeding in a rebellion and running the government means the winners have access to the many millions of dollars, Euros and pounds that continue to flow.

Recommended only as a quick primer for some of the main disputes in the foreign policy and humanitarian nexus.
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Avidreader I'm reading the book now and I must say I largely share the views expressed in this review. At various times I am finding myself thinking she makes a number of sweeping statements which are not substantiated. She does have some good ideas but she needed to do more to prove to the reader that they have a basis.

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