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05/30/2013

Zambian economist accused by Bill Gates of promoting 'evil' fires back

MoyoDambisa Moyo. (Harper Collins handout)

On Wednesday, it was Bill Gates calling out China.

A day later, it's a fuming Dambisa Moyo calling out Gates. 

Gates is in Australia, and has made headlines over the past few days for challenging China to increase the amount of money it commits to international aid. Its current expenditure, Gates says, is "modest."

Moyo, meantime, is among Africa's most visible economic critics.

In her first book, Dead Aid, published in 2009, Moyo condemned foreign aid to Africa, suggesting it helps foster corruption and a sense of dependence and discourages entrepreneurship. 

But Gates is a huge proponent of aid.
Cue the clash of personalities.

I interviewed Moyo last July and today she emailed to say that Gates in a Q&A period in Australia told an audience that she "promotes evil" and doesn't "know much about aid."

 
"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," Moyo writes in a statement on her website.

"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."

A video posted on YouTube shows Gates answering a question about Moyo's book.
"The number of children dying in africa over past 20 years has been cut in half," Gates said, adding that Moyo's book, which he read, "actually did damage generosity of first world countries.

"I found that she didn't know much about aid, what aid is doing. She is an aid critic. It's moralistically a tought position to take.. books like that, they're promoting evil."

Moyo answers Gates' criticism that she doesn't know much about aid by highlighting both her resume--she has been a consultant to the World Bank--and first-hand knowledge that comes from being born and raised in Zambia, one of the poorest aid-recipients in the world.

"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," Moyo says. "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."

Rick Westhead is a foreign affairs writer at the Star. He was based in India as the Star’s South Asia bureau chief from 2008 until 2011 and reports on international aid and development. Follow him on Twitter @rwesthead

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