Dambisa Moyo: Foreign aid is ‘corrosive’ to democracy in Africa

Best-selling author says foreign aid has undermined African governments, and praises China’s role on the continent.

Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian-born best-selling author and economist, says foreign aid has been more damaging than helpful to African democracies, in an exclusive interview on Al Jazeera’s Head to Head programme. 

“We do want to be able to hold our governments accountable but we can’t do that if, actually, Oxfam is going to solve the healthcare problem,” Moyo told Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan in front of a live audience at the Oxford Union.

“How are we able to hold our governments accountable from a public policy stance if they are not the ones who are delivering these outcomes?”

Moyo said while there have been “significant wins” across Africa, “the notion that those are because of aid … is wrong”.

She described aid as a “corrosive nature” on “democracy” in Africa, and said China had played a hugely significant role on the continent.

The former Goldman Sachs banker pointed out: “We’ve had China come in, there’s been significant investment … we’re able to trade with the Chinese, for better or for worse.”

She added that the West should be careful not to “point fingers” at China’s democratic record which was on its own particular “path”.

How to fix democracy

Moyo also argued that there are major problems with Western democracy these days. 

“The notion that democracy is not a problem is mad, it’s crazy,” she said.

Discussing why she believed liberal democracy was “under siege”, Moyo asserted that today’s populism “has its roots in economics”, describing how “real wages have come down … over the past 30 years, social mobility has declined” and “income inequality has widened”.

Moyo also argued that citizens should have to take a test in order to vote and that people must have a “good knowledge of what exactly we’re voting on” before being allowed to vote.

When she remarked how voter participation was at all-time low, Hasan responded by asking, “So the idea is then you make it harder for them to vote by putting a test in front of them?”

In her new book; Edge of Chaos, Why Democracy is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth – and how to fix it, Moyo proposes a system of weighted voting where some individuals have more voting power than others.

When defending her proposal, which Hasan suggested was elitist and would actually “help populism”, Moyo asserted that her idea was “based on participation, not on education” and that a degree of weighted voting already existed around the world.

This Head to Head interview with Dambisa Moyo will air on Friday, August 3 at 20:00 GMT and will be repeated on Saturday, August 4 at 12:00 GMT, Sunday, August 5 at 01:00 GMT and Monday, August 6 at 06:00 GMT

Source: Al Jazeera