Breaking down the doors of international aid is the Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo. She's got a masters from Harvard and a PhD from Oxford and has served time at the global temple to free market thinking, Goldman Sachs
She thinks aid isn't the right way to support African countries in their agonising journey to lift their people out of destitution. Her book 'Dead Aid' published at the beginning of 2009 demolishes assumptions about aid and exposes far too many shamefully inefficient projects and incidents.
From Egypt to South Africa via Liberia and DRC aid has been seen to fuel corruption, both Global Witness and Publish What You Pay have played an important part in investigating these abuses. Furthermore aid donations have been seen to crowd out or scare off local sources of funding, possibly also intensifying conflict.
Part of the problem is that many people think of Africa as one huge ocean of need with its hand outstretched for assistance. Talk to anyone in the aid industry or working for an NGO anywhere in Africa and your illusions will be shattered pretty quickly.
What Moyo says is that we need to start of thinking of Africa more as an investment partner than recipient. If you were an African president she'd tell you to drop your western donors, issue some government bonds and set up your stall to sell them to investors. She thinks aid should stop and African governments should be forced to find alternative sources. A commercial business-friendly environment would inevitably result. Not only that but if private profit-motivated investment were to become standard operating practice it would be much easier for African voters to hold their leaders to account.
'Hold on!' you say, no more charitable giving? no more gift aid? no more famine campaigns? what about the aids crisis? Whenever called to account on her ideas Moyo makes it very clear, over and over again, that she's not talking about these kinds of giving which in actual fact make up a tiny proportion of international aid. She's talking about the massive multibillion government to government loans. And she's got a very powerful point. Most analysts and intellectuals of international relations now agree that aid must evolve from its' present form into something more useful. After all many African countries, after 50 years of aid, have actually fallen in per capita income and economic growth.
Her ideas have interesting implications for political structures too. Dead Aid asks: if the central financing for your country comes from Europe and the USA why on earth should you vote for a national political candidates that seem to do nothing but enrich themselves and stand aside while the developed world delivers national services such as housing, education and healthcare?
Dambisa Moyo will be at TEDx Brussels on December 6