CITIES, how the world works

Review: Africa

“There are four big problems that emerge from aid. One is the obvious one: the corruption, the fact that you’re giving somebody something for free, no strings attached. The second problem is aid dependency, which is the whole notion that you create a society heavily burdened and laden with bureaucracy, which is very inefficient and essentially kills off the entrepreneurial culture. The third problem has to do with this economic term called ‘Dutch disease’, although they usually call it the oil curse. It actually applies to aid as well, where you have these large inflows of capital which really kill off the export sector. Then finally, disenfranchising the middle class; governments become beholden or responsible to report to donors and they don’t have any obligation to report to the domestic citizenry.
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-Dambisa Moyo in The Africa Report

“In addition it was clear how little say not only the citizens have, but the governments have. You hardly ever saw participation from domestic policymakers in designing and discussing what was, essentially, our future – Africa’s future. I mean, there are so many classic examples of people’s lives essentially being shaped and designed by policy that’s not domestically constructed.” She cites the donor who refused to give any aid unless an entirely new town be built in Zambia, despite the government’s protests that they would be left holding the baby, as indeed happened; or George Bush’s requirement that two-thirds of the $15bn he was giving to fight Aids had to go to pro-abstinence programmes, and none could go to any establishment that provided abortions. ”
The Guardian interviews Dambisa Moyo

Partly, of course, it’s about power, and purse-strings; partly, she believes, it’s a PR issue, “there are many well-spoken, smart African leaders who should be on the global stage”; very largely, given that so far not many are, it’s a case of who gets to do the talking, and increasingly, it is people like Bob Geldof and Bono, the most visible representatives of what she calls, in a thrillingly withering manner, “glamour aid”. “There are African policymakers who are charged with the responsibility of creating policy, and implementing policy. That’s their job. Long, long lines of people have stood in the sun to vote for a president who is effectively impotent because of donors or because glamour aid has decided to speak on behalf of a continent. How would British people feel if tomorrow Michael Jackson started telling them how they should get out of the housing crisis? Or if Amy Winehouse started to give the US government advice about the credit crunch? And was listened to? I think they would be perturbed, and worried. I mean, they’ve completely disenfranchised the very people we’ve actually elected!”
The Guardian interviews Dambisa Moyo

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