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Scholar is attacked by Bill Gates for disagreeing with his approach to African aid

Dr. Dambisa Moyo

Dr. Dambisa Moyo

Scholar is attacked by Bill Gates for disagreeing with his approach to African aid

From Naturally Moi

      Dr. Dambisa Moyo is no ordinary scholar. She has a PhD in Economics from Oxford University and a masters degree from Harvard. She has also written two best-selling books and appeared on numerous national television shows and media outlets, along with many other accomplishments. With credentials like these, one would expect a philanthropist like Bill Gates to want to partner with her rather than attack her. But this has not been the case.

Gates’ contention with Dr. Moyo is that she is heavily critical of the way men like Gates give aid to African countries and are unable to achieve their desired results. She is correct in noting that African countries have not been helped in a way that sustains them over the long-term and that better solutions are warranted.

On her website, Dr. Moyo expresses her concerns about Gates and his rhetoric:

     On May 28th, 2013 during a Q&A session at the University of New South Wales, Bill Gates, co-Founder of Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, made some shocking and inappropriate ad-hominem attacks against me and my book Dead Aid.

     In this video excerpt, Mr. Gates answers a question about Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There is A Better Way for Africa by claiming that I “didn’t know much about aid and what it was doing” and that my work is “promoting evil”.

     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.

Dr. Moyo then goes on to explain why she wrote her book, and why Bill Gates needs to read it. She also says that men like Gates actually undermine economic growth in Africa and make the continent worse off. She calls for a more mature debate on the topic, rather than attacks that she considers highly inappropriate:

     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.” 

Even more amazingly, Gates attempts to argue that Dr. Moyo doesn’t know what she’s talking about. This is surprising, since Dr. Moyo has obtained the highest level of education possible at some of the top universities in the world. She is also respected globally for her opinion and surely has as much expertise as Gates has money. Finally, Dr. Moyo mentions that she is from Africa and Mr. Gates is not. Thus painting him as an elitist “do-gooder” who sprinkles money on issues without thinking them through.

     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.

Dr. Moyo seems to set the record straight on Gates by stating that his comments are a tad bit misguided. She also says that there is no value in belittling those who disagree with you when your tactics are relatively ineffective. Perhaps Gates should call up Dr. Moyo and allow her to allocate a small percentage of his wealth to solving these problems. It wouldn’t hurt to see if her Harvard and Oxford degrees are actually working.


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