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The failed promise of aid in Africa 0

Ama Biney reviews two recent books, united in their call for Africa’s disengagement from aid dependency, but with sharply contrasting ideological visions for how to do this and to what end: Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa and Yash Tandon’s Ending Aid Dependence.

What these two books have in common is firstly that they have exceptionally compelling titles for those interested in their subject matter. Secondly, is the obvious fact that they are concerned with aid and Africa. Thirdly, these books will interest those students, policymakers and government officials who ostensibly claim to be interested in eradicating aid. However, this is where their similarities end. The two authors have sharply contrasting ideological visions for Africa’s disengagement from aid dependency. This is indisputably on account of their backgrounds. Moyo has worked at the World Bank and Goldman Sachs, studied at Harvard and Oxford universities, whereas Tandon is a radical scholar, public intellectual and former director of the South Centre (an intergovernmental think tank of the developing countries). In other words, their different experiences not only inform their analysis of aid, but their wholly differing prescriptive solutions to Africa’s myriad problems, which they agree are rooted in aid dependency.

Both authors eloquently illustrate how aid has failed to deliver the promise of economic growth and poverty alleviation in Africa. Moyo’s caustic attack is greater than Tandon’s. She forcefully argues that not only has aid often been stolen by corrupt governments, it has often been unproductive. Moyo claims that aid ‘is the silent killer of growth’. In chapter four she gives a cogent critique of the damaging effects of aid in that it reduces savings and investment as a result of the ‘crowding-out effect’ of aid; it discourages private finance capital; causes inflation; stifles the export sector and inculcates an aid dependent psychology in African people.

On the other hand, Tandon’s ‘aid taxonomy’ is a far greater analytical breakdown of the five different types of aid, compared to Moyo’s simplistic three forms (humanitarian or emergency aid, charity aid and bilateral/multilateral forms of aid). Using a colour classification Tandon identifies purple aid as based on the principle of solidarity; green/blue aid encompasses humanitarian aid and transfer of technical assistance; yellow aid is given on the principle of geo-strategic and security interests; orange aid are concessionary grants given for commercial gain – and in Tandon’s opinion should not be considered as aid – and lastly red aid is given on the basis of ideological principle to influence countries to implement the policies of the Washington Consensus. Tandon contends that it is this latter aid that permeates and dominates the kinds of aid given by the DCD-DAC.

By Ama Biney – Continue reading on Pambazuka

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi