The goal of ending aid dependence is a laudable one. But the idea suggested by Moyo’s thesis – that the free market can lead ‘the bottom billion’ out of poverty – is both fanciful and out-dated. Perhaps we should be shouting ‘make aid history’ but to assume that aid either causes or cures poverty is to fetishize it. This diverts attention away from other more important and achievable goals. For example, closing tax havens to lessen capital flight from Africa. Promoting trade justice to reduce poverty. Developing strategies for environmental justice. Having created global warming it is up to industrialized nations to pay the costs of its impacts on the developing world. This isn’t charity, it is justice and the benefits are global.
Moyo is rightly outraged that official development aid gives so much power to donors and so little to the electorates in receiving countries. But solidarity aid, to help grassroots and civil society organizations in the global South, is quite a different kettle of fish, as Glennie and others have pointed out. Such movements are the ones that can enable citizens to press for decent health and education; for human rights, good governance, and accountability. Big business won’t, that’s for sure.
Ultimately, as Yash Tandon says in his book, Ending Aid Dependence, development cannot be determined from outside. It must come from within – with the citizens of developing countries in the driving seat. But ending aid dependence is ‘not a one-day project’. It requires careful strategic thinking. And the place to start is ‘in the mind, with the psychology of aid dependence’.
That should include donors examining their own dependence on the power of bestowing development aid – and with it their own idea of how things should be.