Essays

Development Aid and Its Criticisms: The View from Zambia

7/16/09
Lindsay Morgan
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What do an HIV-positive Zambian volunteer health worker, a young American aid worker, and a bureaucrat from the UK Department for International Development think about Dambisa Moyo’s indictment, in her book Dead Aid, that donor efforts to “save” poor Africans are paternalistic and perpetuate dependency on the West?

Moyo was born in Zambia—one of the poorest countries in Africa and a cauldron of donor activity. In 2005, the country received $1.7 billion in official development assistance—that’s 17.3 percent of gross national income for a country of only 12 million people.

In this essay, CGD policy analyst Lindsay Morgan explores the reality of aid-supported development in Moyo’s country from three (very different) perspectives of people working there. She sheds light on a fundamental paradox of the aid business: huge donor efforts, much good, and massive unfulfilled need. The essay also explores the paradox of these three peoples’ lives—of believing they can fight injustice and suffering, and knowing there are significant limits to what they can do.

This essay was written during a visit to Zambia by the author while on leave from CGD.