3 MIN READ/2 MIN VIEW - The Cautious Optimism Correspondent for Economic Affairs and Other Egghead Stuff concludes his series of quick read postcripts on the problems with Africa's economic development or lack thereof.
(This is the third in a series of three short postscripts to September's detailed interview with Dambisa Moyo expounding her critique of and alternative to the failed seventy-year African aid model. To read the original article visit the link at the end of this column.)
In contrast to U2’s Bono, who has reconsidered the African aid model and embraced foreign investment and free market capitalism as the key to solving the continent’s long term problems, Microsoft founder and former Chairman and CEO Bill Gates has thrown billions of his personal fortune and billions more Gates Foundation dollars into aid. When asked about Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo’s book criticizing the African aid model he didn’t hold back, accusing her of “promoting evil.”
Notice Gates’ rhetoric when asked if he thinks Moyo’s thesis of ending aid and replacing it with capital investment is correct. His reply of “Well, it depends on your value system” followed by the false dichotomy of continuing the current aid regime or letting children die shows how quickly his language of the businessman has transformed into that of politician.
Gates also counters Moyo’s position as an aid critic by claiming “There aren’t many of them” and accuses her of wanting “children to die” or not “eat enough so that their brains develop” before finally summing her position up as “promoting evil.”
While it’s true that Gates’ work has undoubtedly saved the lives of hundreds of thousands or even millions of children and should be applauded, the hard truth is that once his personal fortune is exhausted new generations of African children will be born right back into disease and poverty if a longer-term solution fostering economic self-sufficiency isn’t found. In this respect Gates’ own charitable work is no different from the foreign aid that has flowed into Africa since World War II, only that more of Gates' money has gone to Africans themselves instead of the bank accounts of dictators and corrupt bureaucrats.
Yet whatever the effectiveness of Gates' charitable efforts, today’s African children still remain one donation away from starvation and mortal pestilence. Within this context, Moyo’s vision remains a vastly superior guide since it proposes a path to end the need for any more Gates Foundations at all—just as Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and China have long since shown foreign aid organizations the door. They simply don’t need them anymore.
On a side note I seriously question if Gates actually read Moyo’s book as he claims.
The sharp contrast between U2’s Bono and Bill Gates is also striking and improbable.
Bono, an artist with little to no previous understanding of business, markets, and capitalism has every reason to remain on the aid model bandwagon yet changed his mind when he was confronted with new information about the economics of developing nation aid models and the virtues of capital markets and foreign investment.
Gates, who built one of the most successful businesses in history and in the pursuit of profit made a large contribution to raising world economic productivity, has rejected the same solution in Africa and slammed proposals to do so. In fact Gates, to his credit, learned the flexibility to change course when he saw the threats that the Internet browser and cloud-based applications posed to his company, yet he inflexibly clings to the failed aid model and denounces alternatives with political rhetoric reminiscent of Elizabeth Warren or Michael Moore.
Bono had every reason to be the clueless perpetual aid pitchman while Gates had the experience and intelligence to promote a comprehensive solution. Instead the rock star “gets it” while the successful entrepreneur has become an establishment bureaucrat peddling the status quo.
ps. To read Dambisa Moyo's original Guernica interview on what's wrong with an aid model that she says keeps Africa trapped in poverty go to: