Dambisa Moyo is an economist and New York Times best-selling author of Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way For Africa, published in 2009.
Moyo’s second book entitled How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly - And the Stark Choices that Lie Ahead is scheduled for publication in August 2010.
Moyo was born and raised in Lusaka, Zambia. She holds a Doctorate in Economics from Oxford University. In 1997, Moyo earned a Master of Public Administration (MPA) in International Development from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. She also earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Finance and Bachelor of Science (BS) in Chemistry from American University in Washington D.C. She worked for the World Bank as a Consultant and at Goldman Sachs where she worked in the debt capital markets and as an economist in the global macroeconomics team. Moyo's thoughts about ending aid to Africa are featured as part Big Think's "Dangerous Ideas" blog.
Question: Which aid programs are doing the best work?
Moyo: I mean, I sit on a number of charities, on the board of a number of charities that are doing fantastic work in Africa. And I’ll come into details in a moment, but I think what’s really important to stress here again is what these charities can and cannot do? So, the charities that I sit on are able to go into these countries and actually provide bandage solutions intermediate solutions. They cannot provide jobs which is where it’s really important for us to see much more involvement in the private sector and that’s why I’m talking about this other form of aid. And why it’s hampered that opportunity. Some of the charities that I think of doing some fantastic work are places like Room to Read, which has got a very targeted programs towards helping young people get to access to books. Other charities, for example, I sit on the board of a charity called “Lundin for Africa” which is a very, very clearly defined mandate to try and support through lending projects in microfinance across the continent. And the third charity that I worked for or I always…I’m a patron…for whom I’m a patron is called “Ark” Absolutely Return for Kids again, very targeted involvement providing anti-retrovirals to Africans…across the Africa, but again, very narrow and also no illusion that they are going to be providing a long-term sustainable growth to these countries. So, there’re some examples of some interesting programs.
Question: What do you think of the Millennium Development Goals?
Moyo: Well, to the extent that we know, we’re not going to achieve those goals, which is obvious 2015 is around the corner…you know, the architects of the Millennium Development Goals are themselves going around saying that you know, Africa is likely not to meet any of those goals. So, I think those type of very sort of large, big scale large focus lofty goals tend to meet to be red herrings for the fundamental issues. What I’m looking to see is much more active programs to implement the things that we know worked, the things that have made China, China and India, and South Africa and Botswana successful at creating jobs and reducing poverty. That’s what we need to focus our efforts on. I think it’s also important that we focus on spinning a more positive story about Africa. Too many of the NGOs and celebrities and charities around are very focused on perpetuating a negative stereo type about the concept which cannot be helpful to raise the very young Africans that are coming up across the continent. That’s a no value to be negative and yet that’s what we see across the continent. So, I think, we just need to do more of what we know works and less of what we know does not work. In fact there is no country on Earth today that has achieved economic development and reduced poverty by relaying on aid. Not a single one, and yet we’re pushing a product that we know doesn’t work at the time when we know what does work and that’s what the issue is here.
Question: Is microfinance a better alternative?
Moyo: Absolutely, microfinance is one of the tools for development that I talked about in the book. It’s an amazing, amazing way of providing support to Africans and people all around the world to finance themselves and therefore be able to stand on their own two feet. They can provide themselves an income, provide education and healthcare to their children. There are numerous examples of this. From Muhammad Yunus want to know about price from Grameen Bank and I just was on a discussion program with him not too long ago. Even in this market, he’s, you know, with all the challenges of the capital markets right now. He’s managed to raise $1 billion from the very small aid student, very small communities within Bangladesh. It’s a billion dollars in rural Bangladesh and you know, very, very little default rates and you know, tremendous success. These are the type of programs that you’d becoming out of the multilateral institutions and they are not…we seen more of the same giving more money to African government. Giving money to governments around the world whereas it seems to me we know what works and give us another example I talked about in the book. It’s an internet interface for…minimum of $25, you can lend to an entrepreneur anywhere around the world. Again, helping to finance a job and again, lending is the operative word, gives opportunity for Africans on the ground, so actually meaningful change their lives.