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Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  6,991 ratings  ·  592 reviews
A national bestseller, Dead Aid unflinchingly confronts one of the greatest myths of our time: that billions of dollars in aid sent from wealthy countries to developing African nations has helped to reduce poverty and increase growth. In fact, poverty levels continue to escalate and growth rates have steadily declined—and millions continue to suffer. Debunking the current ...more
Paperback, 188 pages
Published March 2nd 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published March 17th 2009)
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Apr 03, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dead Aid is an interesting, provocative look at the foreign aid industry and its effects on Africa. Dambisa Moyo, who formerly worked for Goldman Sachs and the World Bank, draws a conclusion not unknown to others in the field: development aid (as differentiated from humanitarian aid) has not only done little good for the nations of Africa but has indeed caused great harm. While I don't necessarily disagree with her conclusion, I didn't find her arguments particularly convincing.

There is no quest
Woah woah woah. First of all, what is with the foreward here? "The simple fact that Dead Aid is the work of an African black woman is the least of the reasons why you should read it. But it is a good reason nonetheless." What Niall Ferguson means here is he found a person with the right national & gender background to prop up as a mouthpiece for his neoliberal economic agenda (which he then gleefully presents in the rest of the forward) and could all the critics calling it colonial back off now ...more
Sleepless Dreamer
Books like these are pretty much my only motivation to continue studying economics, even when it's very shitty.

With an impressive CV and tons of passion, Moyo argues that aid has not been helpful to African countries. In fact, she claims aid has actually harmed them. Half of the book is dedicated to this argument while the other half digs into alternative ideas.

The writing is clear and straightforward but as someone who's in their first years of Economics and Business, I still occasionally fel
May 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010, africa
An extremely neoliberal approach to the problem of development in Africa.

Written by a Zambian economist - educated in the UK & US (you can tell) - the book outlines both the problems with current aid to Africa and suggests how the market can offer a better solution.

It was an extremely interesting read - not least the chapter on China - however, there is no disguising that it is a very one-sided view of the problems facing Africa. Noting the issues with infrastructure and liquidity, Moyo offers m
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 ...more
Kara Babcock
Africa is this huge, Africa-shaped continent south of Eurasia and kind of east of South America. It’s well known for many reasons, such as elephants, lions (but not tigers or bears), and cheetahs. It’s the place where modern hominins evolved … yet now, millions of years later, it is one of the most impoverished places on Earth. Of course, I’m speaking broadly here. As anyone who has actually done much work on or in Africa will tell you, and as Dambisa Moyo points out in her book, “Africa” is a c ...more
Beth Haynes
I just finished reading Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo.

Her primary thesis is that not only has aid not helped to end poverty (a view also held by William Easterly: The White Man's Burden and The Elusive Quest for Growth, Peter Bauer, and others) but on balance, aid does more harm than good.

Moyo has a PhD in economics, interestingly obtained under the tutelage of foreign aid advocate, Dr. Paul Collier (The Bottom Billion).

The book is short and quickly glosses over multiple topics. For someone unfamilia
Jake B
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't think the author ever really made the case for her proposal. She did however make some fairly compelling critiques of an aid model which may or may not reflect current reality.

My biggest disappointment is that her proposals (chiefly financing through bonds and FDI) while interesting are tossed out as though their benefits are self-evident. There were scattered sentences here and there which could have formed the nucleus of arguments for her position, but these often appeared late in the
Stephanie Josine
I wanted to love this book because it seemed to articulate my own rising skepticism toward aid after a couple of years working in the international development sector. Dambisa Moyo makes some interesting points around corruption and impunity and this book serves a useful purpose as a polemic to shake up debate around how aid is done. Moyo is an economist not a writer, though, and she misses the opportunity to draw the reader into a clear and cohesive narrative with well-explored, well-explained ...more
Feb 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa, economics
"What is perhaps most amazing is that there is no other sector, whether it be business or politics, where such proven failures are allowed to persist in the face of such stark and unassailable evidence.
So there we have it: sixty years, over US$1 trillion dollars of African aid, and not much good to show for it. Were aid simply innocuous – just not doing what it claimed it would do – this book would not have been written. The problem is that aid is not benign – it’s malignant. No longer part of t
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who care about Africa
Recommended to Anna by: Wamucii
I liked this book a whole lot. Dambiso Moyo is pretty much saying something that most people think is CRAZY -- she is suggesting that we STOP sending aid to Africa. All of it. Why? Because, she says, it's clearly not working. It doesn't give African governments any incentive to change things, it leads to corruption, and "regular" people never see a dime of it anyway. We need change and one way of doing that is by cutting off aid entirely.

When I first heard this I thought it sounded nuts and tot
Derek Simon
As the title suggests, Dambisa Moyo's argument is that not only is foreign aid in Africa not working, it is actually the main cause of Africa's failure to reach its full economic and social potential.

This is an interesting and provocative thesis, and one that certainly challenges allot of mainstream thinking. However, if you are expecting that Dr. Moyo will challenge conventional thinking with some hard evidence, you may be dissapointed. The book mainly consists of some mainstream free market e
Feb 01, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dead Aid, in a well-researched and convincing manner, describes the past and current justifications for humanitarian and development aid in Africa, the drawbacks and failures of this method, and suggests several alternatives for the future. As a layman in the field, I appreciated the clear and coherent writing style and logical construction of the arguments. As a layman, though, I also lack the background to objectively judge the value of the alternate plans she proposes. I do have some uneducat ...more
Blythe Beecroft
First, I realize this book is now a bit outdated. I think its strength is the provocative thesis: aid to Africa is bad and there are better approaches we can be adopting. The critique of the existing aid model is powerful and definitely highlights its failures and paternalistic nature. It definitely caused me to reevaluate some longstanding ideas and reconcile them with some of my lived experiences in SSA. The history of aid section was a great overview and impressively clear and succinct.
catherine ♡
A good read but a little outdated by this point.
Czarny Pies
Sep 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in Africa.
Recommended to Czarny by: I saw the eloquent Ms. Moyo interviewed on the CBC,
I possess a CFA charter which means that I have a professional knowledge of banking and credit. Forget what the critics say. Dambisa Moya is not a black woman but a professional banker who knows how lending and banking work. Dambisa Moya's thesis is simple. If Western financial institutions applied the same principles to Africa that that they have always applied in their own countries, Africa would quickly become rich and prosperous.

It is unfortunate that Moyo allowed Niall Ferguson who is somet
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first non-fiction of the year and it was extremely thought provoking. The gist of this book is: Aid is easy money - enabling powerful elites to embezzle public revenues. Although aid is well intentioned, it has brought about a sense that Africa is a charity case that relies on the willingness and compassion of the developed world. Moyo goes on to the core of her argument, that there ARE better alternatives. Governments can fund development through international and domestic financial markets ...more
Sarah Logan
A review of aid has been needed for a long time, as aid (referring specifically to loans to African governments from MFIs) arguably hasn’t brought sustainable economic growth or alleviated poverty as intended. Although I agree with some of her points, I’m very sceptical of most of her views. For example, she argues for use of bond markets for all African countries before admitting that many are a long way off from being able to access bond markets (as credit ratings and inclusion on indices are ...more
Beth Anne
Aug 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's pretty hard to argue with the case made by Dambisa Moyo in Dead Aid. Moyo criticizes the Jeffrey Sachses and the Bonos of the world, and calls for a shift away from (and ultimately, a cessation of) the aid-based development model championed by Western policymakers and pop stars. Dead Aid is a quick read, but packs a powerful punch, demonstrating how aid has done more harm than good to Africa and Africans, and how the answer to SUSTAINABLE and substantial economic growth actually lies in mar ...more
I started this book in '09 but picked it up and re-started it again last month, given the context of my hopeful Peace Corps deployment as a business volunteer in Africa. For anyone who isn't really comfortable with the idea of western governments sending billions of dollars in taxpayer money to Africa, where it often ends up in the corrupt hands of warlords, or with the idea, propagated by Bono et al. that Africa needs "saving" through lavish packages of aid, this is a book that will resonate lo ...more
Whitlaw Tanyanyiwa Mugwiji
I loved reading the book its clear and concise. I agree with her argument that aid has fostered laziness and corruption in Africa but I am struggling to come to terms with one of her solutions. She tends to believe that capital markets are able to avoid some of these failures and challenges.

I personally contend that the issue is with the conditions that come with aid and the thieves we have for leaders. With better leaders aid can be used to develop countries especially considering that the aid
Jul 04, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Largely meandering with no coherent argument about why aid, itself, is bad. The largest thesis I found, one of the most highlighted quotes in the kindle version, was that aid promotes laziness by those who get too comfortable with the aid, simply sitting back "and waiting for the checks." This is essentially Reagan's welfare queen ideology, and I'm not sure how something so insulting to Africans got published and widely promoted. Bono's efforts to have debt nullified are dismissed as an insult s ...more
Dec 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
A fascinating view of how government aid sent to Africa has not only been unsuccessful, but has actually done more harm than good to the African continent and its people. Moyo gives clear examples of how financial aid has been ineffective, along with many possible alternatives that will help further the continent's development and growth. A great read for both world leaders and citizens interested in international development. ...more
I just got to read it and realized how misguided or somehow ill-intentioned the book..

It's crazy how Dambisa argues for China as the savior of Africa and calls for Africa borrowing, while she annihilates the World Bank for doing exactly the same thing on even more lenient terms than the banks that she argues for..
The really shocking thing was that she argues against aid ineffectiveness and all its flaws, but barely mentions accountability of African politicians as part of the equation, she compl
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written by the clever and articulate Moyo, this is a fascinating insight into the history of aid and the issues that plague it. With more people in Africa dependent on aid now than in the past, what has gone so very wrong? This book is simplistic at times and does brush over some of the more complex issues however on the whole it’s a great read!
Courtney Smith
Love. Everyone interested in community development, fundraising, and aid for developing countries should read this book. I would love to hand this book to all the major politicians and see if we could make some change out of it.
Monica Rubombora
Everyone that cares about Africa: both the giver of the aid & the recipient of the aid, should read this book. 50+ years of "giving" free stuff are enough to teach us a lesson that this thing called aid ain't working. The author Dambisa Moyo, gives a compelling argument in this book. I found myself nodding in agreement as I paged through each chapter. ...more
May 19, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author makes plenty of decent arguments about how the traditional aid model feeds into corruption and bad-government complacency throughout Africa. She also offers up plenty of neoliberal alternatives to helping African nations (cutting red tape, micro-lending programs, bonds, direct business investment, etc.) But good heavens this was a dry read. A thousand-year old bone in the desert, grad school textbook dry. I ended up skimming the last dozen or so pages just to get it over with.
Bee Han
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting read, and definitely recommended to friends.
Damiez Chavan
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable read. I'm glad it wasn't longer than it was longer though. Presents a basic overview of international development aid history, how aid has affected Africa, and a mix of financial, economic, and policy alternatives to aid that have worked in different countries. Makes a compelling case. ...more
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Great African Reads: * April-June 2014: Dead Aid 12 67 Oct 03, 2014 10:55PM  

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Dr. Dambisa Moyo is an international economist who writes on the macroeconomy and global affairs.

She is the author of the New York Times Bestsellers "Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa", "How The West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly And the Stark Choices Ahead" and "Winner Take All: China s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World".

Ms. Moyo


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“In a perfect world what poor countries at the lowest rungs of economic development need is not a multi-party democracy, but in fact a decisive benevolent dictator to push through the reforms required to get the economy moving” 14 likes
“Africa is addicted to aid. For the past sixty years it has been fed aid. Like any addict it needs and depends on its regular fix, finding it hard, if not impossible, to contemplate existence in an aid-less world. In Africa, the West has found its perfect client to deal to.” 3 likes
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