The Dead Aid debate so far

Dambisa Moyo is rapidly becoming the bête noire of orthodox development circles. Her recent book, Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa has stirred up a good deal of controversy, arguing that that ‘overreliance on aid has trapped developing nations in a vicious circle of aid dependency, corruption, market distortion, and further poverty, leaving them with nothing but the “need” for more aid.’ (Incidentally, you would not believe how long it look me to realise that ‘Dead Aid’ is a play on Live Aid.)

In typically sceptical fashion, Emmanuel Yujuico at IPE Zone points out that ‘you also have to consider that several books have followed the same formula of catchy title plus scepticism about aid. Others have said it earlier–and better.’ He’s right, and people like James Ferguson have been writing on this for a number of years, but it’s worth noting that none of those authors (to my knowledge, at least) were black. As has been noted by Niall Ferguson, who wrote the foreword to Dead Aid, it is pleasing to see a ‘popular’ book on development that has been written by an African woman, rather than an American male. That said, as Global Dashboard’s own Jules Evans points out, Moyo hasn’t lived in Africa for years. Moreover, her career has followed the path of the archetypal high-flying western development worker – Oxford, Harvard, Goldman Sachs and the World Bank.

Back in February, Global Dashboard asked where the Dead Aid argument leaves traditional developmentists: ‘will they all dig in for a defensive game, or is a serious process of strategic renewal finally in prospect?’ Since then, promotional opinion pieces and interviews for Moyo’s book have led to a spate of debates (surely that is the correct collective noun?) within the development blogosphere and wider media that may be able to shed some light on this question. (more…)