Global Ethics Corner: International Aid: Does Help Hurt?

Apr 17, 2009

According to Dambisa Moyo, large foreign aid flows to Africa disenfranchise Africans and prop up corrupt African leaders. If we follow Moyo's advice and cut off aid, what happens to the millions whose survival depends on it?

Most cultures encourage "helping those in need." Can helping the needy be wrong?

Controversial Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo challenges this principle regarding international aid to Africa.

For her, while disaster relief is vital and aid from charities is positive, "...these types of aid are relatively small beer when compared to the...$50 billion...that go to Africa every year..." from foreign governments and organizations like the World Bank.

Moyo says, "...the fundamental problem with these large aid flows...is the fact that (they) disenfranchise Africans... Africans cannot hold their governments responsible... They are propped up by the aid model... They do not deliver anything. The society is becoming worse."

This is amplified by a co-dependent relationship with donors who need to give aid to justify their infrastructures.

Her solutions are African governments responsive to their people and markets freed to create wealth locally. Her ideas challenge the status quo and require basic change. In the meantime, people are desperate.

Is she right about a culture of dependency? Is aid its own disease? What about the millions whose survival depends on aid?

By William Vocke, based on a Public Affairs talk by Dambrisa Moyo held at the Carnegie Council on April 9, 2009.

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