"Opposition to anti-aid campaigner grows
By William Wallis in London
Published: May 22 2009 19:54 | Last updated: May 22 2009 19:54
A swell of opposition is building in the aid world to a new protagonist who has thrown down a strident challenge to the rock stars and liberal economists who have long dominated debate over foreign assistance to developing countries.
Galled by the ease with which Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist and former investment banker, has risen to prominence this year, activists are circulating detailed critiques of her ideas and mass mailing African non-government organisations to mobilise support against her.
Yet it is proving hard to suppress the hyperactive graduate of Oxford and Harvard, who pops up weekly in a new capital to promote her book Dead Aid – the title itself an affront to rock star Bob Geldof’s Live Aid campaigns.
The former Goldman Sachs strategist has become something of a phenomenon. The economist hit the New York Times bestseller list in April, was named this month on Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people and has been appointed to the board of brewer SAB Miller.
Within days of reading about her, Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president, flew Ms Moyo out to address his government. Col Muammar Gadaffi, the Libyan leader, invited her to Tripoli this month.
Ms Moyo argues that official development assistance has fostered dependency and perpetuated poor governance. She proposes a blend of commercial debt, microfinance, fairer trade and investment in its place.
Her ideas are not especially new. But the publicity she has attracted has posed challenges to an industry accustomed to having the most vocal campaigners on its side.
Activists fear that developed countries seeking an excuse to slash aid budgets have found one in Ms Moyo, at a time when Africa is especially in need. They dismiss her book as simplistic – even dangerous. Some critics said her ideas were gaining prominence because of the novelty of a passionate, young African woman taking on the aid establishment.
Mr Geldof’s aid advocacy organisation, One, has been mobilising opposition to her messages. Academic Jeffrey Sachs is among those who have denounced her ideas.
“It is ludicrous because we now have leaders like President Kagame supporting the anti-aid campaign ... despite the clear successes of aid in promoting Rwanda’s growth,” he told the Financial Times.
But Ms Moyo has struck a chord in Africa.
William Easterly, a US academic,said: “The aid establishment is scared to death of the public relations disaster that a growing movement of independent critical African professionals would be.” .