Money for Nothing?

Dead Aid
Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa
Dambisa Moyo
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24, 208 pp.

It’s anyone’s guess whether Dead Aid, the title of Dambisa Moyo’s new book, will become as famous a phrase as “Live Aid,” the 1985 rock music extravaganza that raised money for famine-stricken Ethiopia.

Thanks to a spring flood of publicity, however, Moyo’s catchy, unabashedly derivative title is now part of the economic lexicon, and her thesis that aid has done more harm than good for Africa is woven into the ongoing economic dialogue about how to help the third world. I didn’t appreciate just how woven until I read a newspaper comment by the head of American Friends of Kenya, a small nonprofit organization based in Connecticut with which I am traveling to Kenya this summer. “None of the stuff we do is aid,” the AFK leader was quoted as saying. “We are not an aid-providing organization. We are an infrastructure-building organization.” It seems that aid, like charity before it, has become a bad word.

Moyo is not the first to argue that aid to Africa has inadvertently caused economic stagnation, endemic corruption, and even civil wars. But she is the first black African economist, albeit with all the proper Western credentials (a PhD in economics from Oxford, and a master’s from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government), to make this case so pointedly. So she has made the media rounds, everywhere from Fox News to The Colbert Report.


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About the Author

Bethe Dufresne, a frequent contributor, is a freelance writer living in Old Mystic, Connecticut.