Half the Sky-Read the book

Half the Sky! Read it!

Lately I’ve been reading “Half the Sky” by Sheryl WuDunn, and Nicholas Kristof, about fundraising and international aid efforts. It is extremely well-researched, and well-written. Sheryl WuDunn, the first Asian-American ever to be awarded the Pulitzer prize, deserves it 100%.

International aid is a lot more complicated than it seems at first blush. I’ve written about “The Myth of the Naked African Child” before, and rather than reprise that post, I’d like to share a little story with you, from ‘Half the Sky’ which, by the way, you would not want to read during a serious depressive episode.

This title quote comes from a person at a concert by Bono, who feels that aid does Africa more harm than good.

The passage reads,

“…Economists have noted that it’s difficult to find any correlation between amounts of aid going to a country and development in that country. As Raghuram Rajan and Arvind Subramanian put it in a 2008 article in The Review of Economics and Statistics:

“We find little robust evidence of a positive (or negative) relationship between aid inflows into a country and its economic growth. we also find no evidence that aid works better in better policy or geographical environments, or that certain forms of aid work better than others. our findings suggest that for aid to be effective in the future, the aid apparatus will have to be rethought.”

Half the Sky! read the book!

Half the Sky! Read the book by Sheryl WuDunn and Nick Kristof!

We’re great admirers of Bono, who has been indefatigable in support of aid for Africa and who knows the subtleties of development; he talks poverty policy as well as he sings. Yet when Bono spoke at an international conference in Tanzania in 2007, he was heckled by some Africans who insisted that aid isn’t what Africa needs and that he should back off. Andrew Mwenda, a Ugandan, complained about the calamitous consequences of “the international cocktail of good intentions.” James Shikwati of Kenya has pleaded with Western donors: “For God’s sake, please just stop.”

In 2000, a world health conference in Nigeria set a target: by 2005, 60 percent of African children would use bed nets to protect them from malaria. In reality, only 3% were using bed nets in 2005. There is also a legitimate concern that aid drives up the local exchange rate of African countries, undermining business competitiveness.

Maybe we should let an African tell us what she wants. Here’s a Ted talk by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, first female finance minister for Nigeria, entitled, “Want to help Africa? Do business here”

Highlights from her talk:

“We are tired of being the subject of aid.”

“We have to reform our economies, change our leadership, and be more democratic, and we have to do it ourselves.”

“The best way to help Africans is to create jobs and help people stand on their own feet.”

“Some of the best people to invest in on the continent are the women.” -Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister in Nigeria

If you want to do more to help the Half The Sky movement, go here.

What do you think? Do you agree that investment in women and the economy is the best solution for the problems that aid causes in Africa?

Please leave a comment and tell me what your response is.