In This Review

Toxic Aid: Economic Collapse and Recovery in Tanzania
Toxic Aid: Economic Collapse and Recovery in Tanzania
By Sebastian Edwards
Oxford University Press, 2014, 320 pp

Despite the title of this book, the heroes of Edwards’ entertaining account of Tanzania’s development in the 1980s and 1990s are the international donors who imposed reforms on the country’s socialist government after President Julius Nyerere’s policies had ruined the economy. In the immediate postindependence era, international aid had provided support to those same counterproductive policies—hence the toxicity referred to in the title. But by the early 1980s, the majority of donors had withdrawn their support and begun to condition future aid on reforms, including the thorough privatization and liberalization of the economy. Edwards argues that Tanzania’s adoption of this set of “Washington consensus” policies sped the country’s economic growth during the last two decades. His book is one of the most thorough and careful examinations of the subject of economic reform in Africa, and it benefits from the many interviews he conducted with key actors in Tanzania. Nonetheless, Edwards devotes too little attention to the many critics of the aid process in that country, who continue to question the true extent of the reforms’ success.