During a recent Q & A session at the University of South Wales, Bill Gates sharply criticised Dambisa Moyo's book "Dead Aid", and said that such book "promotes evil". According to Gates, "it depends on your value system, the number of children dying has been cut in half", adding that having read the book, he realised that Moyo "does not know much about Aid and what its doing". Gates went on, "If you look objectively at what Aid is doing you will never accuse it of creating dependency, books like that, they are promoting evil"
In response Moyo said "I find it disappointing that Mr. Gates would not only conflate my arguments about structural aid with those about emergency or NGO aid, but also that he would then use this gross misrepresentation of my work to publicly attack my knowledge, background, and value system".
First I wish to make it clear that the idea that Aid creates dependency is not novel. Dependency theorists in Africa had cried out about it since the 80s. Moyo only publicised it by earning a publishing contract with a major publishing company that sold her books worldwide.
Secondly Moyo argues that she was only referring to structural Aid, and not humanitarian Aid. Nevertheless in an interview with CBC in 2009, she launched attacks at celebrities like Bob Gelldof and Bono arguing that "celebrities begging arm do not work ". This clearly waters down her argument that she was only referring to structural Aid. Why attack people who deliver humanitarian Aid, and who never organised structural Aid? The role of these celebrities has little or nothing to do with African Development model. This only tends to reinforce Bill Gates moral argument, and makes it difficult to truly decipher Moyo's reason/intention for writing Dead Aid.
Furthermore, the moral and value arguments concerning Moyo's "Dead Aid" can also be detected in Moyo's recommended panacea/alternative for Aid. Instead of what she refers to as the Aid model, she recommends what I call the Bond Model of sourcing funds to finance development projects. According to her, sourcing money through bonds would instil discipline on African leaders to manage the resources well, because it comes with greater interest rate and for shorter periods of time.
There are fundamental problems about this argument; sourcing funds from the so called more stringent Bond, does not address nor tackle the underlying structural problems of African political economy. Moyo, most unfortunately assumed that because borrowings through the bond market carry higher interest rates and for shorter periods, African leaders would be repentant and disciplined in dealing with such funds. This psycho economic premise is laughable and patronising. A brief content analysis of African leaders shows that those who are determined to steal their countries' resources would always do, no matter the interest rates of the borrowed funds.
Furthermore, I had argued in a previous article that while Bond market may be food for western actors, it is a financial minefield that is embedded with patches of insider trading and toxic deals. This obviously is not what African countries, "who are definitely not insider actors would wilfully and pro-actively want to engage".
Both Aid and Bonds are not good for Africa. Most Aid, to Africa, come with very harsh conditionality and are never as soft as Moyo indicated. Aid conditionality from IMF, World Bank, and other institutions have caused death, riots and hardship in Africa. However and compared to Bonds, Aid represents a chance for African countries to restructure and invest in productive and technology based infrastructure at minimal financial cost and commitment. Moyo's bond alternative is clearly a poisonous panacea that must be avoided by African countries like plague. The international money market, infested with money sharks cannot be the escape route for Africa.
Dead Aid "actually proposes and creates a different form of cycle of dependency. More Bond credibility equals more money, equals more credibility, equals more money. This surely represents another cycle of dependency; something that Moyo sought to diminish in Africa".
Aid is not bad simply because it is called Aid; after all it was Aid through the Marshal Plan that helped European countries to rise after the Second World War. The only difference is that the money was invested in science and technology and Africans are not doing the same today. It is also Moyo's structural type Aid- from IMF, World Bank, OECD, and EU countries that is holding Europe from collapsing now from Bond induced debts. Bond type borrowings have led to the collapse of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain; and austerity in UK, France and other countries.
Africa's structural problems (operating at the substructure and not superstructure like Aid and bonds) which are fundamental to her development includes entrenched corruption inherited from colonial masters, lack of strong institutions like the judiciary, police, legislatures; low scientific consciousness and poor technologies that would have helped to create value and/or sustain development projects.
Furthermore, it is therefore wrong to reduce all African problems to just Aid. If you source funds through Bonds (superstructure) and still have weak institutions (substructure) the problem of underdevelopment would remain. It is entrenched corruption in African countries that steal Aids with the active connivance of western countries who guarantee the safe keeping of the looted funds; and not Aid causing corruption as Moyo argued.
The selfish and value aspect of Moyo's critic of Aid as Bill Gates highlighted could also be located in the fact that Aid distorts and regresses right wing macro bond markets, which Moyo belongs to and professes. This is the evil and dishonest dimension of "Dead Aid". The book's true intension is questionable. For example, Dead Aid bizarrely recommends benevolent dictators for Africa, arguing that they need absolute authority to push their policies through. Benevolent dictators- including who? Mobutu, Abacha, Mugabe, Ghadafi, Mubarak, Who? If Africa had developed or progressed under any dictator, she would clearly have done better without the dictator.
We need more sub-structured propositions and arguments for the development of Africa and other developing countries and not superficial attempts as in "Dead Aid"