Zambia-born author of the New York Times bestselling book, Dead Aid and renowned economist Dambisa Moyo, on Thursday reacted to the world’s richest man Bill Gates’ “inappropriate and disrespectful” comments about her and her famous book named above.
When asked about his thought on the book during a Q&A session on Tuesday at the University of New South Wales, the Microsoft co-founder billionaire said the author “didn’t know much about aid and what it was doing” in Africa, adding that such books are “promote evil.”
In her book Dead Aid, Moyo explaines why aid is not working in Africa and shed light on the possible solutions to economic prosperity. In her response to Bill Gates’ comments on her integrity and motivation, she wrote on her blog: “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.”
She continued: “I have dedicated many years to economic study up to the PhD level, to analyze and understand the inherent weaknesses of aid, and why aid policies have consistently failed to deliver on economic growth and poverty alleviation. To this, I add my experience working as a consultant at the World Bank, and being born and raised in Zambia, one of the poorest aid-recipients in the world. This first-hand knowledge and experience has highlighted for me the legacy of failures of aid, and provided me with a unique understanding of not only the failures of the aid system but also of the tools for what could bring African economic success.”
Moyo is an author of several books including: How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly – And the Stark Choices that Lie Ahead and Winner Take All: China’s Race for Resources and What It Means for the World and Dead Aid. In 2009, she was rated on Time 100 most influential person in the world list. According to her, “Western aid had become like a drug to many African countries, giving them little incentive to develop industry since aid rather than tax was a more reliable source of government revenue.”
While I agree with most of the things Moyo points out in her assessment of aid into Africa, I find her statistics suspect and at times misleading. Moyo does establish a correlation between aid and lack of development (you can call it underdevelopment) in Africa. But this is not enough to establish causality. Establishing causality goes beyond pointing out two things that happened at once, one has to show, using statistical methods (such as econometrics), that aid is the reason for underdevelopment. Whilst aid may have resulted into little if any economic transformation, it is conceivable that aid helped some economies avoid total devastation. Nevetherless, Bill Gates’ comments were too severe and in my humble opinion unprofessional.