By RON FANFAIR
Foreign aid that’s supposed to be a policy designed to help Africa is in fact actually hurting the continent, says Zambian-born economist Dr. Dambisa Moyo who Time magazine last year named one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
Speaking last week at a Black History Month reception at the Law Society of Upper Canada, she said the aid system has perpetuated a cycle of poverty and dependency, fostered corruption and hindered economic growth.
“It basically has disenfranchised Africans,” said Moyo, the author of Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa, which was released last spring. “The aid system has created a structure where African governments have abdicated their responsibilities.
“What kind of societies are we building? How dare we stand around and think it’s OK for us in government not to take responsibility for public services such as education, health care, infrastructure and security which the governments are charged to provide to the people? In most African countries, those goods and services are provided by the international community thereby severing the link between its citizens and the elected officials.”
Moyo said far too many African leaders have taken a backseat and allowed other people, including celebrities such as Bono and Bob Geldof, to usurp the PR image of Africa.
“To me, the celebrity culture represents everything that’s wrong with the aid system across the African continent,” said Moyo who completed a PhD in Economics at Oxford University and holds a Masters from Harvard University and an MBA and Bachelors in Chemistry from American University in Washington D.C. “We cannot have rule of law or talk about human rights when we cannot even hold our governments accountable to what they are supposed to be providing to us.
“We have allowed Bono and Bob Geldof and all these characters to run around. By the way, I love their music, but it just irritates me that they are designing African policy. Celebrities can use their platform to instead showcase what African doctors are saying about the HIV epidemic and teachers thoughts about girls’ education….
“Do unto others as you will have them do unto you. When was the last time in Canada you heard nothing from Ottawa, but instead you are hearing from Madonna talking about the risk of a mortgage crisis in Canada?”
To make her point that the aid system has not worked for the continent, Moyo said close to 70 per cent of Africans are existing on less than a dollar a day in 2010 as compared to 10 per cent in 1970.
“We are continuing to pursue a system of economic development in Africa that we know has no evidence anywhere on earth of ever alleviating poverty or creating growth,” she said. “As long as African governments themselves are not running with the rallying cry for economic growth of that continent, we are going nowhere fast.”
Moyo, whose parents were among the University of Zambia’s first graduating class in 1970, worked at the World Bank in Washington and with Goldman Sachs in the debt capital markets, hedge fund coverage and in global macro-economics teams.
Her second book, How the West Was Lost, will be released later this year. The publication examines the policy errors made in Canada and other Western economies which culminated in the current financial crisis. It also explores the policy decisions that have placed China, Russia and the Middle East in pole position to become the dominant economic players in the 21st century.
The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and the Law Society of Upper Canada teamed up to host the event that’s part of the Law Society’s Public Education Equality and Rule of Law series which is held annually during Black History Month to create dialogue on equity and equality issues and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black lawyers.
Prior to the reception, a panel of lawyers and scholars examined the interconnection of law, commerce and development in different African regions and discussed how Africa has shaped international law, democracy building and human rights.
The panelists were Ontario Ministry of Economic Development & Trade and Ministry of Research & Innovation legal director Mark Warner, Osgoode Hall law professor Dr. Obiora Okafor and former Canadian ambassador to Ethiopia and Sudan David MacDonald.