The first of two studies found that TOMS was not wrecking local markets. On average, for every 20 pairs of shoes donated, people bought just one fewer pair locally—a statistically insignificant effect. The second study also found that the children liked the shoes. Some boys complained they were for “pregnant women” and some mothers griped that they didn’t have laces. But more than 90% of the children wore them.
Unfortunately, the academics failed to find much other good news. They found handing out the free shoes had no effect on overall shoelessness, shoe ownership (older shoes were presumably thrown away), general health, foot health or self-esteem. “We thought we might find at least something,” laments Bruce Wydick, one of the academics. “They were a welcome gift to the children…but they were not transformative.”
More worrying, whereas 66% of the children who were not given the shoes agreed that “others should provide for the needs of my family”, among those who were given the shoes the proportion rose to 79%. “It’s easier to stomach aid-dependency when it comes with tangible impacts,” says Mr Wydick.
Since everyone is currently talking about the MDGs and how they may or may not be achieved on time here is a nice piece from Bill Easterly.
According to an Oxfam study, eliminating US cotton subsidies would “improve the welfare of over one million West African households – 10 million people – by increasing their incomes from cotton by 8 to 20 per cent”.
I may not always agree with Bill but I think his basic approach to development is spot on. Just like in most human endeavors (politics, economics, sports) systems based on human goodwill are bound to fail while those based on self-interestedness thrive. There is no magic bullet in development, but there is definitely a better approach than is currently being employed. Lets not forget that aid is supposed to eventually lead to self-reliance.
It is already clear that the goals will not be met by their target date of 2015. One can already predict that the ruckus accompanying this failure will be loud about aid, but mostly silent about trade. It will also be loud about the failure of state actions to promote development, but mostly silent about the lost opportunities to allow poor countries’ efficient private business people to lift themselves out of poverty.
Bono has a slightly less realistic more hopeful take on the progress towards achieving the MDGs.
A reader gave this link to a certain critique of Moyo’s “Dead Aid.” The criticism offered by this gentleman, although weighty in its own right, has not changed my admiration of Moyo’s work. The fact of the matter is that Africa needs to rid itself of dependency on well wishers from wherever on the globe.
Moyo’s book, because it is intended for general consumption, lacks the regressions and seminar-like proof that some of her critics are asking for. It does not take a statistical genius to realize that it was Western aid that propped the corrupt (and most probably mentally challenged) Bokassa.
And the simple argument that correlation does not imply causation does not fly either. It has been more than forty years of western aid to Africa without any meaningful development. Within the four decades, if there was something else other than aid that was retarding African development we should have discovered it. The fact that we have not means that aid might be the problem. And what Moyo proposes is a viable alternative.
And to be honest, the main reason why I am in full support of the Moyo way is not because I am sure that it would succeed. It is for the simple reason that it would give Africans agency in their lives. It would force African governments to govern their people humanely. And it would reduce African dependency on the rest of the world. Anyone who has taken time to observe Africans’ interaction with the rest of the world knows the enormous degree of self-doubt that Africans have. Grown men take off their hats to kids the ages of their grandchildren simply because they are not from the Continent. This much needed self-confidence will only be achieved when Africans truly take charge of their destiny. Moyo offers an option that might lead to this.
I just finished reading two excellent books: In defense of elitism by William Henry III and Dead Aid by Ndabisa Moyo.
The former book deals with how society (American but it can apply anywhere) may, over time, be dragged down by its less savvy members in the name of egalitarianism. I do not agree with Henry on all the issues addressed in his book. I particularly think that he is misguided on his views on education and the feminist movement. But overall I think he has a point about the ever increasing vulgarization of the mainstream – in an ever increasing tide of anti-intellectualism – in order to accommodate the common man.
Moyo’s book is one of the best I have read on development in a long time. It kind of reminded me of Collier’s the Bottom Billion. And the book is a fast read, with the chapters seamlessly connecting with one another. I am a terrible book critic so I am just gonna say: go read it.
And speaking of Paul Collier, check out this fascinating debate. I like this, I only wish there were one or two heavy hitters from the continent weighing in on this. Where are you Prof. Wantchekon?