The name ‘Dambisa Moyo’ is one I vaguely recall hearing here and there, but my disinterest was such that I cannot even pinpoint where or when. I just have a fuzzy notion that the name has been said in my hearing on many an occasion.
Until recently; it is not one that would have piqued my interest, never mind galvanizing me into writing an entire blogpost on her.
This sudden interest was sparked by the fact that I befriended a Chartered Accountant a while ago and he is an engaging conversationalist whose only fault is that he just won’t shut up about how remarkable Dambisa Moyo is.
Now seeing as how Dambisa Moyo’s awesomeness was becoming a recurring conversational theme and how she was a constant reference point in our discussions- I thought it wise to find out who the hell this woman really was and what all the fuss was about!
Well, I did my research and I still cannot answer who the hell she is but I think I have a good idea what all the fuss is about.
If you’re really interested in specificities regarding Dambisa Moyo you are welcome to ‘google’ her; I am not really writing authoritatively on her – so for the purposes of this post I’ll identify her as Zambian-born author and economist.
Now, I am not an economist, have never been particularly concerned with that field of study and having come across the storm of controversy Dambisa Moyo’s books have stirred – I think I should read around the subject a bit.
A disclaimer before I go on – I have NOT read Dambisa Moyo’s books (I hope to do so soon) hence the title of my post… as far as I know she is a woman who said ‘something’ important in one or both of her books. I say ‘something’ because I have no idea what exactly she said I am just convinced it was important.
The reason why I think she said something important is because while doing my research I came across a lot of praise for her book and insights on economics, Africa, aid and what-not. The praise was lavish and made for some entertaining reading.
However, it was the harsh criticism that really caught my attention. Oh, didn’t they just shred her, tear her to bits and pieces, flog and flay her views; stamp and spit and spew venom in response to whatever she had opined in her book (specifically Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way For Africa published in 2009).
It was the criticism, the meanness and the vileness of it that convinced me (as nothing else would have) that this woman said something important. Again I am not at liberty to state categorically what the important thing she said is for the reasons given above.
I am just of the opinion that you have to have said something pretty damn important to grab that kind of attention, stir that sort of controversy and attract that kind of brutal criticism.
Sometimes even when what we have to say is wrong… if it is important – it will get a reaction precisely because its wrongness points to what is right. I don’t know if that’s the case with Dambisa Moyo but a lot of learned people disagree vehemently with her and a lot of equally learned ones agree with her views.
Whatever it is they are quarrelling about (what do I know about economics?) – it must mean she said something important.
Below are quotes from various reviewers including Donor Organizations on the contentious matter of Dambisa Moyo’s writing:
Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, who advocates scrapping aid to Africa, creates a sensation wherever she goes. Her critics say she is nothing but a media hype, but she is nevertheless an African voice in a debate dominated by white men. – Critics dismiss Dambisa Moyo as 'media hype'
One suspects that behind this book is a remarkable woman with an impressive career and very little time for learning how to write a good book. The result is an erratic, breathless sweep through aid history and current policy options for Africa, sprinkled with the odd statistic. There are so many generalisations skidding over decades of history, such frequent pre-emptory glib conclusions, that it is likely to leave you dizzy with silent protest. This is Moyo at her weakest; she is an economist by training and her grasp of the political economy of Africa is lamentable. Time and again, she fails to grapple with the single biggest factor determining the poverty of the continent – how the state functions, and has failed to function. – The road to ruin
…here we have a Zambian academic weighing in on a subject that has been the preserve of self-appointed “development experts”. I have always found it challenging to review papers or books penned by fellow Zambians as my natural propensity is to cheer every sentence and offer support. But of late I have found the call to review Dambisa’s book too loud to ignore…Dead Aid falls far short of what is expected of a book advocating such a radical proposal of “turning off the aid tap”. If there’s any consolation in this assessment, it is that Dead Aid will hopefully not find any intellectual traction. – A Zambian Economist Review
The book is sporadically footnoted, selective in its use of facts, sloppy, simplistic, illogical, and stunningly naive…Moyo’s concerns are old and poorly argued, but I close constructively. For her concerns are also serious. She is passionate and authentic as she tries to tackle and explain big ideas. This is an early effort, and she can improve. Going forward, she must give up the search for easy answers. – Dambisa Moyo Discovers Key to Ending Poverty
“Mrs Moyo is not the voice of Africa”, he said. “She lives in an Ivory Tower far away from the reality of Africa. Perhaps she should go back to Zambia to see how much that country still needs help. Maybe then I will pay better attention to her” – John Kufuor, former president of Ghana</a
The big opponents of aid today are Dambisa Moyo, an African-born economist who reportedly received scholarships so that she could go to Harvard and Oxford but sees nothing wrong in denying $10 in aid to an African child for an anti-malaria bed net – Jeffrey Sachs, American economist and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
I could go on and on… but the bottom line is I am inspired. Inspired to go right ahead and write my own book about whatever the hell I like and state whatever the hell I think and fearlessly express my own opinion and not be afraid of the critics. They could be right and I could be wrong. But I’ll have my say regardless. Thank you Dambisa Moyo, for whatever it is you said – that seems to have been so damn important!