The Required Reading: Dead Aid

The first book I read for my research project was Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo.  When I was working on my application for Summer Fellows, Dr. O recommended it to me as something that might be worth checking out.  Although I didn’t get around to reading it until this week, I wanted it myself so I ordered a copy from Amazon rather than using my budget from the program.  Book I bought with those funds end up as property of the library.


I’ve got to say, this book really impressed me.  Moyo focuses her argument on government-to-government aid rather than Emergency Funding or private giving through NGOs.  She makes the claim that this type of aid is actually hurting African countries, citing data showing increased poverty rates as well as giving examples of countries that have rejected Western aid and have traditionally performed much better on their own.

As for her methodology, Moyo starts by destroying the myth that aid is actually helping African countries.  This is very important because so many people see it as a purely good thing and believe that wealthier countries are required to help the less fortunate.  Moyo systematically dismantles this claim by going through the long history of foreign aid and dissecting the practice, exposing all of its flaws and failures.

She does not, however, leave her readers with this bleak picture – the second section gives her recommendations for what needs to be done in aid’s place: African countries need to (1) make use of the international bond markets to raise money, (2) continue to let the Chinese do “large-scale direct investment in infrastructure (xi), (3) push for free trade in agriculture, (4) support financial institutions especially through micro-financing, and (5) make it easier for Africans outside the continent to send remittances to friends and families still in Africa.

I’m not sure how helpful this book is actually going to be for my research project.  I realized very quickly that it’s focus isn’t where I needed it to be.  However, I was too enthralled with Moyo’s argument to put it down at this point!  It’s definitely raising some questions about the post-colonial relationship between the West and Africa and about aid more broadly.  Although I don’t have time to do it this summer, it might be a good avenue to explore during the school year when I’m pursuing my Honor Research Project.


This sent shivers down my spine when I first read it.  Earlier in this section, Moyo was describing the rise of “glamour aid” and how celebrities like Bono seem to take it upon themselves to speak for the continent.  Rarely are Africans included in the discussion about how best to help their countries.  This is one of the reasons why I’m so excited to go to Africa as a part of my research – I get to actually talk to them about what is working and what is not.  That’s a pretty exciting thing.


Something that I found very intriguing was this passing mention of a company called Kiva that connects lenders and borrowers around the world as a means of micro-financing.  Has anyone tried using the platform?  I’ve got a little extra inheritance money still sitting around from my Grandpa.  Stay-tuned because I might be giving this a try…



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