The Zambian-born economist and writer Dambisa Moyo spoke for many when she remarked that "public discourse on Africa" had become "a public disco". "Scarcely does one see Africa's (elected) officials or . . . African policymakers . . . offer an opinion on what should be done, or what might actually work to save the continent from its regression," Moyo argues. "This very important responsibility has, for all intents and purposes, and to the bewilderment of many an African, been left to musicians who reside outside Africa."
For Moyo, the "glamour aid" phenomenon forms part of a wider tendency in the West, dating back to colonial times, to regard Africans as helpless children who cannot "improve their own lot in life without foreign guidance and help". This infantilising tendency manifests itself in a kind of moral megalomania, an attitude the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole has dubbed "the white saviour industrial complex", which sees world poverty as "nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm". In Cole's view, the world of development aid "exists to satisfy the needs — including, importantly, the sentimental needs — of white people and Oprah [Winfrey]."
This sentimental attitude towards the poor encourages an impatient, simplistic assessment of their political, social and economic situation. It is as if a sense of moral outrage becomes an end in itself, whereas in fact the moral imperative to help those in need ought to be regarded as the starting point in a long and demanding engagement with reality, in which it is often far from easy to bring relief to the poor, for all sorts of technical, economic, cultural, military and political reasons.
These challenges and pitfalls have been well documented, at least since the economist Peter Bauer wrote his seminal studies on the effects of aid in Nigeria in the 1960s; but the extensive, fascinating literature on international aid has so far had a minimal impact on its public image. One important negative consequence of official aid, discussed by the Oxford economist Paul Collier among others, is simply that large injections of funds from the West unavoidably involve foreign exchange transactions that artificially drive up the price of local currencies. High exchange rates inhibit foreign investment and choke off nascent export industries, thereby depriving recipient states of the one tried-and-tested means by which poor countries such as Taiwan or South Korea have become rich over the last 50 years.
- ONLINE ONLY: Overpopulation and the Reality of Grandchildren
- ONLINE ONLY: Sharia Threatens All Women, Muslim and Non-Muslim
- ONLINE ONLY: The Last Days of the Divvy
- A Party Overrun by Lads and Libertines
- The Myth of Cameron's Etonian 'Chumocracy'
- Here Lie the Remains of Tory Modernisation
- Forget 'Islamophobia'. Let's Tackle Islamism
- Neoconservatism: A Good Idea That Won't Go Away
- Have You Heard the One About Auschwitz?
- Cameron's Too Late To Tame the UKIP Tiger
- ONLINE ONLY: Thoughts from a Hospital Bed
- ONLINE ONLY: Academic Boycotts Teach Us Nothing
- ONLINE ONLY: Send in the Clowns
- ONLINE ONLY: Thatcher, Reagan and the Dictators
- The Resolute Courage of Margaret Thatcher
- America's New Isolationists Are Endangering the West
- An Alternative To Our Reckless Energy Gamble
- The Family is the Key to the Future of Faith
- Persecuted Muslims Who Love Life in England
- They Were the Future of the Tory Party, Once