Friday, May 31, 2013

Zambian Economist Blasts Bill Gates After He Calls Her Views Evil

Forbes contributor Mfonobong Nsehe sets the scene:

On Tuesday this week, Microsoft MSFTco-founder Bill Gates attended a Q&A session at the University of New South Wales[...] a member of the audience asked the billionaire philanthropist a question on whether aid in Africa has had far-reaching negative consequences, based on the central idea of Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo’s acclaimed book, Dead Aid, Why Aid Is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa.

Here is the question and answer and the attack on Moyo by Gates:

Here's part of Moyo's response:

I find it disappointing that Mr. Gates would not only conflate my arguments about structural aid with those about emergency or NGO aid, but also that he would then use this gross misrepresentation of my work to publicly attack my knowledge, background, and value system.
I would like to take this opportunity to address both of Mr. Gates’ claims here:
  1. I wrote Dead Aid to contribute to a useful debate on why, over many decades, multi billions of dollars of aid has consistently failed to deliver sustainable economic growth and meaningfully reduce poverty. I also sought to explicitly explain how decades of government to government aid actually undermined economic growth and contributed to worsening living conditions across Africa. More than this, I clearly detailed better ways for African leaders, and governments across the world, to finance economic development. I have been under the impression that Mr. Gates and I want the same thing – for the livelihood of Africans to be meaningfully improved in a sustainable way. Thus, I have always thought there is significant scope for a mature debate about the efficacy and limitations of aid. To say that my book “promotes evil” or to allude to my corrupt value system is both inappropriate and disrespectful.
  2. Mr. Gates’ claim that I “didn’t know much about aid and what it was doing” is also unfortunate. I have dedicated many years to economic study up to the PhD level, to analyze and understand the inherent weaknesses of aid, and why aid policies have consistently failed to deliver on economic growth and poverty alleviation. To this, I add my experience working as a consultant at the World Bank, and being born and raised in Zambia, one of the poorest aid-recipients in the world. This first-hand knowledge and experience has highlighted for me the legacy of failures of aid, and provided me with a unique understanding of not only the failures of the aid system but also of the tools for what could bring African economic success.
To cast aside the arguments I raised in Dead Aid at a time when we have witnessed the transformative economic success of countries like China, Brazil and India, belittles my experiences, and those of hundreds of millions of Africans, and others around the world who suffer the consequences of the aid system every day.
In conclusion, I am disappointed that Mr. Gates would choose the route of personal attacks rather than a logical counter argument about the role of aid in modern Africa. Such attacks add no value in the important discussions on the challenges the world faces to deliver economic growth, eradicate poverty, combat disease, and reduce income inequality, to name a few.
As I have always maintained, I respect the views of others and am open to having logical and meaningful debates with the ultimate goal of finding sustainable solutions to Africa’s economic problems.

I haven't read Moyo's book (I just ordered it), so I don't know her argument in detail, but her surface argument is correct.  Government to government aid has done nothing to alleviate poverty in Africa.

W.H. Hutt said it best:
Foreign aid is taking money from poor people in rich countries and giving it to rich people in poor countries.


  1. Mr. Gates’ claim that Moyo “didn’t know much about aid and what it was doing” is a fine example of Psychological Projection.

  2. Thanks for flagging this. See also Lords of Poverty, by Graham Hancock,

  3. of course Ms Moyo has no idea what she is talking about, rich Mr Gates has seen Africa on the TV news and has had plenty of people nodding sagely about his plans to help.
    He and his pretty wife have travelled the world speaking at conferences in Capital Cities about poverty and how to fix it.

  4. Huerta de Soto also explains this, but in a more Austrian way.. La ayuda a la probreza genera pobreza.

  5. Walter Block's observation that foreign aid to Africa goes into the 3 M's. Mercedes Benz, machine Guns and monuments is instructive here.

    Wonder if some enterprising Nigerians have already taken Bill to the cleaners?

  6. I didn't know his foundation owns 500,000 shares of M'santo: