Sunday, February 24, 2008

Helping Africa be less bad (one day at a time)

I was recently talking to a friend who just got back from the bowels of Africa after six months attempting to push a community closer to that magic buzzword(s) of "sustainable development." His thoughts married neatly with mine; en sum, Africa is being infantilized (should be a word) by foreign aid. In the simplest example, no one is going to grow food to sell in the local market if the locally produced food is going to have to compete with FREE food.

The Bottom Billion delves into this subject at great depth, and I agree with it's conclusions that it's not that foreign aid needs to be abolished, just radically reshaped in a way that stimulates local enterprise, be it through creating common markets, lowering cost of information, shrinking distances between markets -- in general, increasing (and securing) the returns on legitimate enterprise by improving the functioning of the market economy and with it, state governance.

For what it's worth, I am optimistic about the changing economic climate in Africa, which is shifting away from American farmers sending free food to Rwanda to more decentralized, creative approaches to augmenting the local human capital. I am less optimistic about the free world's ability and willingness to prevent yet another genocide. Those on the right will need to see that the future of these failed states is intertwined with the security of the United States, while those on the left will need to admit that the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives trumps stepping on the sovereignty of a self-appointed dictator. Hopefully, our next President sees the failure of the intervention in Somalia in the early '90s as a failure to properly assess the threat and a failure to adequately address the problem, rather than insisting we should not mettle in failed states.

The new military challenge is that of the failed state, which must first be avoided by economic and political assistance, but at times will demand an outside actor to monopolize (and thereby limit) violence; only when the warring parties are convinced that their plans of violence will not be successful in wresting political control to extinguish their enemies will they realize that political dialogue remains the best recourse. In a country like Iraq, this is an extremely tall task, however, in many less developed, smaller countries, like Sudan, it is well within the capacity of a small, well-armed, well-trained coalition, with quick-response capabilities. We should not discredit the idea of nation-building because one endeavor was not well thought-out. The African Union is taking steps forward, but they will need our support.


  • In Praise of Somaliland, A Beacon of Hope in the Thorn of Africa: Against all odds, and with little international recognition or aid, the three million people of Somaliland have – largely by their own efforts – begun to establish a secure, functioning democratic state and a fair degree of economic stability and growth.
  • Can Greed Save Africa? Fearless investing is succeeding where aid often hasn't: Thanks to the global commodities boom of the past few years, sub-Saharan Africa's economies, after decades of stagnation, are expanding by an average of 6% annually—twice the U.S. pace. And like bees to honey, investors are swarming into the region in search of the enormous returns that ultra-early-stage investments can bring.
  • Economics in many lessons: A better brew for Rwanda: Rwandan coffee now routinely places at or near the top of international coffee competitions and, just a few weeks ago, a lot of Rwandan coffee sold for approximately $25 per pound at a specialty-coffee auction. Imagine what this kind of change means for people who live in country with a per capita GDP of less than $300. More than 50,000 Rwandan families have seen their incomes double over the past six to seven years.
  • African peacekeeping: The doves of war: The United Nations will juggle nine separate peacekeeping operations across Africa in 2008, including the continent's two largest countries by area, Sudan and Congo. This sounds impressive. But the UN and the AU are both, in fact, struggling.


rose said...

i think you would find this book interesting:

Publius said...

I shall check it out