Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dead Aid

Dead Aid has an interesting thesis. However, the writing seems to be a prosification of power point slides rather than an actual book. A bunch of ideas are jumbled together, showing problems with the current African aid regime and possible alternatives. However, there is little connection between the points. The early prefaces and introductions also give some of the best points.

A key point I got from this was that western-style aid is not helpful to Africa precisely because it seeks to benefit the liberal western institutions. Providing food from western farmers to Africa temporarily alleviates hunger. However, it also weakens local agriculture. Propping up African states because they adhere to the ideological line looks nice, but doesn't necessarily benefit the Africans. (It also can confuse matters. One day a strident anti-communist dictator is preferred. Later, democratic election is the "party line.") Aid institutions also have a tendency to be more concerned with giving aid than making sure it provides the desired benefits.

Chinese aid is seen as one of the bright spots because Chinese interests mesh better with African interests. China is interested primarily in natural resource extraction and manufacturing. They need good transportation infrastructure to access these, while they don't care about the country's political ideology or who builds the facilities. However, they do care that the facilities are properly built and able to function well for the long term use of Chinese and African businessmen.

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