A Review of Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid, by Semiu A. Akanmu

Aid, “a sum total of both concessional loans and grants”, from donors – mainly Western, to African countries has “hampered, stifled and retarded Africa’s development” is the thesis of Dambisa’s Dead Aid.  It is a tightly-argued book, combative, deep, factual, and above all, problem-solving.

Dead Aid – a 187-page, 2-part, and 10-chapter book – is an army on its own in the ranks of anti-aid dependency model for African development. It attacks the moralist and the liberal developmental narrative of Africa’s needs of aid to fight its plague of diseases, build its social and physical infrastructure, and alleviate the poverty of its people. Contrary to that, Dambisa argues, aid kills economic growth, stifles African entrepreneurship, promotes corruption, encourages coup and leadership despondency, and plagues African countries to more socioeconomic crisis.

“Sub-Saharan Africa remains the poorest region in the world with an average per capita income of roughly $1 a day…  Life expectancy has stagnated, adult literacy has plummeted, diseases ranging from bilharzia to cholera are on the rise, the income inequality is worrisome, political instability is raging”, she laments, and asks rhetorically, “Why is it that Africa, alone among the continents of the world seems to be locked into cycle of dysfunction? Why is it that out of all continents of the world, Africa seems unable to convincingly get its foot on the economic ladder?”  “The answer has its roots in aid,” she posits.

Dead Aid draws on a historical background to explain the rationale behind the constitution of aid development, and what would later translate to three organisations: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (known as World Bank), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Trade Organisation. It explains that, even though the concept helped in reconstructing Europe after the World War II, same cannot be said of Africa because: (a) no institutional framework, (b) no transparency and accountability, (c) no exit plan for aid injection, and more pathetic (d) not really meant for African development.

Dambisa listed the supporting proofs (Marshall plan, IDA graduates, with conditionalities, and a micro-macro paradox) of aid proponents, and dismantled each with potent empirical evidences and logical counter-explanation. She enumerated how “culture of dependency” naturally kills creativity, its casual effect on corruption because freebies are normally recklessly spent, and civil war. She lamented the civil society’s commodification of poverty to ensure tap of grants continues flowing, the inflationary effect of aid, among others.

What stand Dead Aid out are its alternative provisions. It strongly suggests viable and result-oriented routes that can be taken instead of the aid-dependency developmental model. It elicited capital market, foreign direct investment (FDI), trade, micro-financing and lending, remittances, and savings – with respective systematic planning and application. It, however, does not suggest an instantaneous shutoff of aid door. Rather, a planned phasing-out timeline is suggested so that African countries can explore and implement other dependable options. Likewise, it supports humanitarian aid which is occasionally meant as relief in times of natural disaster and epidemic.

What remains a debatable hypothesis, in the absence of empirical evidences, is whether aid moderates/correlates economic retrogression or causes it. Dambisa, knowing the strength of such assertions, tactically avoids it. However, she made veiled attribution of that when she writes “…where private capital trumps aid every time is on the question of governance”, “Good governance trumps all”, and  “…in a world of good governance, which will naturally emerge in the absence of the glut of aid…” What the above portends is that, good governance causes economic development, and it naturally exists in the absence of aid. We can rewrite it, as a pseudo-conceptual model, that: Aid (antecedent) leads to bad governance (mediator), then leads to economic retrogression.

Even though the question of what measures “bad governance” is open-ended, one is tempted to agree with the hypothesised linkage between aid, bad governance, and economic retrogression. In all African countries, South Africa and Botswana are most economically viable, according to Dambisa, and they took a non-aid-dependency developmental model.

Citation(s): Moyo, Dambisa. Dead aid : why aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009, 188 p.

Senate’s suspension of CCB, CCT & ACJ Acts amendment: How far can the masses go?

News filtered in during the course of plenary at the Nigerian senate chamber last week that the ongoing amendment to the code of conduct bureau and tribunal act as well as the administration of criminal justice act had been suspended.

To some Nigerians it is a welcome development after the pressure was mounted on members of the red chamber to drop the amendment at this period. Read more

Hustling for Survival 

Here are two boys. No! They are men, young men; local artisanal fishermen on fishing expedition. They are hardworking Nigerians, not criminals, in disagreement to the demeaning declaration by the President of their Nation. Photographed at the Lagoon Front Resort, located at the tail end of the ‘University of Lagos’ Campus, Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria. To them, street bandits are less human, and arms’ begging is not an option to consider to making ends meet.

Read more

A ki je meji po, l’aba Alade: Re-understanding Yoruba Philosophical Thought on Scarcity and Resource Allocation

Eunice, Precious and Taofeeq are friends whose certain challenges in life endeavours –what my other spiritual friends will call trials –propelled the need to re-understand “A ki je meji po, l’aba Alade” Yoruba philosophical thought. Eunice and Precious’ cases are similar, though with different causative factors. Taofeeq’s was quite different. But all are unified at a point where lessons on scarcity and resources allocation are indispensable.

Eunice is a slim lady, elegant, intelligent and with an impeccable command of English language. Many would like to attribute her communication prowess to her field of study: Eunice is a graduate of Mass Communication with Second Class Upper Division grade. I disagree because I have seen a graduate of English language who could not write complainant statement in pure English language without giving a substantial part to Pidgin. I believe Eunice is just a language nerd. Eunice would be 40 years old this year. To her, because she is still single, she is facing trial. May be from certain spiritual principalities! Precious’ body structure is the opposite of Eunice’s. She is a typical example of what is called, in street lingo, “Orobo to cute”. She manages to balance between being plump and sporty. Precious will be having her PhD in Human Development in few months. Similar to Eunice, Precious will be 43 years old in May, this year. She is also single. From my close interaction with both ladies, their morals – cultural and Christian faith-driven –are worthwhile, and their credibility is not in doubt.

Taofeeq, being a guy, probably wouldn’t be enlisting late marriage (or being single) as trial. He is married, though, and the marriage is blessed with kids. He controls a small enterprise of 20 – 25 employees. At an age of 36 years, the confectionery company he laboured to build from scratch, staring from years of baking apprenticeship, now fetches him an annual net profit of Five Million Naira. His fixed assets –building, machines and bakery equipment –value at Ten Million Naira. Taofeeq is a secondary school leaver. He could not afford a university education when he ought to, and this necessitated his exploration of other means of livelihood. To him, his inability to get a degree when his mates did is a trial, on which he still groans.

In all my respective discussions with these three persons –Eunice, Precious, and Taofeeq –I had ensured we re-engaged and re-understood “A ki je meji po, l’aba Alade” Yoruba philosophical thought on scarcity and resource allocation, in view of demystifying the spiritual attachment they have given to their scarcity-induced experiences. These are experiences they all do not want to take responsibilities, or accept fate, for their resources’ allocation preferences.

Eunice, a Nigerian, in the midst of blacks, has always been dreaming of marrying a White guy. When the dream of leaving the shores of Nigeria, at least to afford her the opportunity of meeting Oyinbo, becomes bleaker, she resolved to “manage” a black guy, but one that is lanky, tall, and preferably with “six packs” abs. Eunice has now resorted to fate; she is ready to go for “anything husband”, in as much she will be loved. But at 40, her chances of marrying a single guy are almost non-existent. She is not yet in term with polygamy, nor has she agreed to marry a widower or divorcee, who, most likely, would have had children from previous relationship. She never prayed for step-children. In all, Eunice has achieved being a dream pursuer.

Precious had advances from men expressing their love and intentions of marriage immediately she completed her first degree. She turned all offers down. She was afraid of dream killers. She wanted to be a scholar, an academic, and a human development expert of international repute. She believed marriage, especially with men of superiority complex, would defeat her dream.  As she is now rounding up her PhD, with fair number of academic journals and conference proceedings to her resume, and with a teaching job in a university, Precious is living up to her dream, but she still alleges that inability to marry till now is a trial caused by certain principalities.

Taofeeq wouldn’t want to appraise the progress he has made from another perspective: one that compares his financial status and standard of living with that of his mates who got their degrees when they ought to. Taofeeq was learning bread baking, while his mates were learning binomials. His mates are either employed, or unemployed. In Nigeria, few of his age mates could match his financial strength through legitimate earnings. Still, Taofeeq is bothered of being one that has no degree appellation to flaunt.

To the Eunice, Precious and Taofeeq: A ki je meji po, l’aba Alade. You cannot eat your cake and still have it. Aba Alade (Alade’s village) is a metaphor for a livelihood with limited resources. If our lesson in elementary Economics is still valid, the insatiability of human wants and the limitations of resources (material and immaterial) will always be responsible for scarcity. This will require systematic allocation of your resources. You probably will not be able to have it two ways. You will have to set your scale of preference; you will have to choose what your forgone alternative will be. You must be happy with your decision. You must not place responsibility of innocent principalities.

A ki je meji po, l’aba Alade is a Yoruba philosophical thought on scarcity and resource allocation that echoes the indispensability of these human and social (economic) principles. It tells you to choose one, you may not have both!

“It is up to you”: My First Lesson on Plurality in Malaysia

From certain distant observers, Malaysia is an Islamic country, most likely, the nationals speak Arabic, and Sharee’a (Islamic) law is the national legal mechanism. No matter how ludicrous this assertion might sound to those in the knowledge of the actual identity of Malaysia, it should not be surprising.  It cannot be unusual when there are Nigerians naming Australia as a member country of West Africa. It can be that appalling!

Even though I was fairly informed of the national identity of Malaysia, and its socio-political characterization, I was extremely surprised to learn that, despite being of Muslims majority (70%, arguably), with handy portion of their legal instrumentality reflecting Islamic laws, Malaysians at their individual levels are pluralistic, tolerant of individual freedom of choice, even when they disagree. “It is up to you” is very close to an average Malaysian’s cheek; he or she throws it at you to simultaneously express respect to your choice, and disagreement or disinterest with/in that choice. “It is up to you to make your choice.” “It is up to you, since it is your life.”

This trait of an individualistic society is in steep contradiction with the Malaysian national collectivist culture which is perpetuated by the political class and generally obtainable in modern Asian countries. However, Malaysians, at their interpersonal relationship level, proudly exercise this tolerance to plural society and endorse libertarianism. As a citizen of a country of God-appointed litigators and moral policemen, Malaysians’ tolerant disposition to ideals they equally find strange and obnoxious was my first lesson.

I encountered “it is up to you” in many of my interactions with Malaysians –from classrooms, to group discussion, to shopping malls, to groceries’ stores. In all, Malaysians’ disposition to homosexuals, or people that are publicly exhibiting effeminate features (for supposed males), and masculine features (for supposed females), is the most reinforcing of Malaysians’ unmistakable maturity to deal with plurality.

To be very clear, and for the purpose of emphasis, Malaysians’ majority are Muslims, Malaysia is a close-open society, depending on your angle of appraisal, and homosexuality is a crime. Yet, Malaysians will not act with brazen impunity of dispensing justice on behalf of the state; Malaysians will not assault and harass people that are inclined to homosexuality. In fact, my close knowledge of homosexuals, their dressing style, outward appearances, and concrete understanding of their existential livelihood came from Malaysia.

I have had few encounters with this people, though distant, but till now, I could not still wrap myself around the actual fact and truth supporting their wish for anatomical shift. I have been subtly wooed by one of them, I have been served food in a restaurant by one of them, I have taken ferry with one of them sitting nearby, and most unbelievable, I have prayed in mosque with one of them. One of this people a typical Nigeria religionist so much abhor and ready to kill on behalf of his God is a mosque administrative assistant for people praying to their own God in Malaysia. I have since been wondering if Nigerians’ Allah/Jehovah is different from Malaysians’. If this is not, certainly Nigerians’ Islam/Christianity is different from Malaysians’, and/or Nigerian Muslims and Christians are different from their Malaysian counterparts. You cannot claim to read the same scripture, worship the same God and have different disposition to the same phenomenon, especially when such is argued to be scriptural or theological. A particular intervening variable must be missing out.


And I know. I know that Nigeria citizenry is one with battered psychology –evident in cheerleading of its treasury looters but reprimand its petty thieves. I know that as Nigerians provide alternatives to public amenities like electricity and water, they are also tempted to provide justice. But there is a need to specifically engage certain section of the Nigerian populace who dispense jungle justice or rationalises such national madness based on religious leaning and theological precepts.

It should dawn on us why we should quickly fix the Nigerians’ religionists’ demon; we should infuse “it is up to you” into their mental being for us to be safe from their theist terrorism.