William Easterly is Professor of Economics at New York University, joint with Africa House, and Co-Director of the NYU Development Research Institute. He is also a non-resident Fellow of the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C. Easterly received his Ph.D. in Economics at MIT and spent sixteen years as a Research Economist at the World Bank. He is the author of The White Mans Burden: How the Wests Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (Penguin, 2006), The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (MIT, 2001) and over 50 published articles. Easterly's areas of expertise include the determinants of long-run economic growth and the effectiveness of foreign aid. He has worked in most areas of the developing world, but most notably in Africa, Latin America, and Russia. Easterly is an associate editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Economic Growth, and of the Journal of Development Economics.
Well I think it’s making it a two-sided debate. Jeff Sacks and the people who think like him have gotten sort of a free pass for quite a while in the media, because they’re intentions are definitely very good and very admirable. And people tend to give you a lot of slack if you have good intentions. There’s something about me that I’m not willing to give people with good intentions a lot of slack if they’re not getting good results. I think if the good intentions are to help poor people, I’d like to see good intentions plus results, not just intentions. And so far we’ve seen lots and lots of intentions, and very little by the way of results. And I think it’s time that we called the Jeff Sackses and the Bonos of the world on that.Well I’d like to see two things happen. One is that first that the west will be much more humble and modest about what it can do in Africa; that it will realize it can meet some humanitarian needs if we do hold our aid agencies accountable for meeting those needs. And that’s it. Stop. End of story for what the west can do. And then the second thing I’d like to see is a kind of awakening within Africa, which I think is already happening. It doesn’t really need my help to happen. They don’t need to look to the west to rescue them. This is already happening. That Africans realize that the escape from poverty is going to happen in Africa the same way it happened everywhere else – through homegrown efforts, through democratic reforms, through free markets, through dynamic entrepreneurs like the cell phone entrepreneurs that are making cell phone use double every year for the past seven years in Africa; like the Internet providers that are making Internet use double every year for the last seven years in Africa. These are the dynamic entrepreneurs that are giving Africa a future. In fact the last five years of growth in Africa have been the highest in Africa’s history. So it’s a little too soon to say “Oh, the problem is over.” Africa is on a growth path. Plenty of things can still go wrong, but it’s time that we handed the ball over to Africa and Africans themselves seize the initiative. Recorded On: 7/6/07