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Monthly Archives: November 2009

Shamans and Development Experts

Robert Wright writes in his fascinating book, The Evolution of God:

There is in the world today a great and mysterious force that shapes the fortunes of millions of people…There are people who claim to have special insights into this force…Most of them have often been wrong about the future, and many of them have been wrong most of the time. In fact, it’s not clear their advice is worth anything at all…Nonetheless, {they} have

Posted in Books and book reviews | 6 Comments

The Age of the Development Expert

Foreign Policy magazine just released its top 100 Global Thinkers for 2009. Twelve out of the top 100 were what is loosely called “development experts:”

 Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart (20), Paul Collier (36), Jeffrey Sachs (39), William Easterly (39), Esther Duflo (41), Muhammad Yunus (46), Amartya Sen (58), George Ayittey (76), Paul Farmer (83), Jacqueline Novogratz (85), Andrew Mwenda (98).

 With the obligatory caveats about the more well-deserving who were omitted and questionable rankings,…

Posted in Big ideas | 11 Comments

The secret to aid is people

Editors’ Note: This will be the last Aid Watch post until Monday after the holiday weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!

Which attribute of an aid project makes it more likely to succeed:

  1. It will have rigorous evaluation based on some output indicators to make sure it’s working, OR
  2. It is staffed by people who really, really want it to succeed?

This question came out of a tour of maternity and family planning clinics of Marie

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Big ideas, Global health | 12 Comments

African leaders advise Bono on reform of U2

An expert commission of African leaders today announced their plan for comprehensive reform of music band U2. Saying that U2’s rock had lost touch with its African roots, the commission called for urgent measures to halt U2’s slide towards impending crisis.

“Our youth today are imperiled by low quality music,” said Commission chairman Nelson Mandela. “We will be lending African musicians to U2 to try to refurbish their sound to satisfy the urgent and growing…

Posted in Badvocacy and celebs | 57 Comments

USTR Replies to Our Campaign to Save Madagascar Jobs

After sending an email to Constance Hamilton, Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Africa, we received the following email in response:

Thank you, Mr. Easterly, for your email. We of course, want to have as
many sub-Saharan African countries as possible be eligible for AGOA
benefits. We are working with all the countries, including Madagascar
– to encourage their governments to abide by the AGOA eligibility
criteria, particularly rule…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Democracy and freedom, Trade | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Hopeless cause of the week: save Madagascar!

Aid Watch has a stubborn attachment to excellent but possibly hopeless causes…

Madagascar, a country we first blogged about in June and then again in August, may be down to its last few days as regards AGOA, the US preference program that underpins about 50 percent of the country’s $500 million textile industry.  Because of the change of government that took place in Madagascar in March, the US has been steadily threatening…

Posted in In the news, Trade | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Famine Cover-Ups vs. Fake Famines

Is Ethiopia having a famine? As often is the case, there are two forces pulling in opposite directions that make it hard to answer the question.

On the one hand, the authoritarian government wants to cover up any famine to mute criticism of its performance.  Ethiopia is due for elections next year, and the government is determined not to go the way of previous regimes toppled in part because of anger at famines in the…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches | 16 Comments

Is the agency that’s all about country ownership giving up on country ownership?

The Millennium Challenge Corporation was created in 2004 to be a different kind of aid agency, a model that would correct the mistakes of other development agencies and put lessons gleaned from decades of experience into practice.

Belief in country ownership—the widely-accepted idea that country-led development is critical to the success of sustainable development—was one of MCC’s founding principles. At an event this fall the acting CEO said, “Country ownership is not just a…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches | 7 Comments

Africa is Rich

…as well as Poor. I don’t dispute, and I do care very much about changing, the well known material and health deprivation in Africa. But Life doesn’t have only one dimension.


These thoughts were prompted by a recent seven-day journey on foot through the highlands of North Wollo, Ethiopia.[1] Going through a district with no roads, no electricity, no wheeled vehicles, no source of energy other than animal and human power, threshing and winnowing…

Posted in Field notes | 23 Comments

Friday Roundup: Who Will Implement US Aid to Pakistan?

With a USAID administrator at long last named and awaiting confirmation, some of pieces of the overall US development strategy should finally begin falling into place. Will we then get some answers on what the heck is going on with US aid in Pakistan? Those of you who follow the region know that in October, Congress moved to triple current levels of non-military aid to Pakistan, approving a package for $7.5 billion over the…

Posted in In the news | 2 Comments