Dambisa Moyo is part of a generation of Africans who have studied modern economics and finance and pursued careers in developed economies. They know how the private sector works, and they have seen how millions of people have escaped poverty thanks to economic growth and the jobs it has created. From that perspective--and from a deep concern for her native Africa--Moyo, 40, has written Dead Aid, an indictment of the "development industry" for creating destructive aid dependency in Africa.
Moyo, who was born in Zambia and educated at Harvard and Oxford, contends that aid has made African governments unresponsive to the real needs of their people and indifferent to the private sector. It props up corrupt governments and, in the worst cases, it has abetted regimes that have destroyed some African countries.
Moyo's proposal to phase out all government-to-government aid in five years is probably overstated for effect; she herself is willing to consider a 10-year plan. And her general argument is not without flaws. She notes the massive foreign aid that South Korea received from 1950 to 1980 without acknowledging it as a spectacular success. And while she fails to acknowledge the lifesaving progress achieved by efforts against malaria and HIV/AIDS, she also states clearly at the outset that her book is not about the aid to Africa whose primary aim is humanitarian.
Unsurprisingly, the development industry doesn't like her critique. But advocates of aid do have to come to grips with Moyo's fundamental question: Why is Africa so much poorer after receiving billions of dollars in assistance? Just as important, how can young African professionals like Moyo be attracted back home, not out of charity but to pursue opportunities?
Paul Wolfowitz is a visiting scholar at AEI.