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Thursday, July 19, 2007

What will work in Africa: Aid or Trade

I have been ignoring this topic deliberately untill I stumbled upon "The Botton Billion - by Paul Collier" who rightly says that about 70% of the poorest people live in Africa. An emotional must read, the book defines the bottom billion as people who live on less than a dollar a day – coexist with the 21st century, but their reality is the 14th century: civil war, plague, ignorance. They are concentrated in Africa and central Asia with a scattering elsewhere. They live in Chad, Haiti, Bolivia, Cambodia and North Korea. Fine, along with other like minded individuals who show such compassion for Africa, Collier may be right but questions still abound as to what is the right formula to change the situation in Africa.

Paul Coullier goes on to say that ," The 21st century world of material comfort, global travel and economic interdependence will become increasingly vulnerable to these large islands of chaos, which may become havens for terrorism or destabilising civil war. Bean-counting poverty simply misses the point. Even if poverty declines in these societies the conditions for social explosion will mount unless the current situation is reversed. That is the coming challenge of development: rescuing – or containing – a group of countries that for 40 years have been shearing off from the rest of us and must start to catch up.
Africa has been a hot topic at all major international discussions and conferences, interviews, books and recently concerts all geared towards creating awareness about the unfortunate plight of Africa."

Rescuing or Containing - a group of countries that for 40 years have been shearing off from the rest of us and must start to catch up.????

Everyone has been having their ideas about the way forward for example James Shikwati director of a Kenya think tank (Inter Region Economic Network) IREN Kenya, detastes the idea of Africa recieving aid from western countries and other bretton woods institutions but supports the creation of business/trade models that would boost development in Africa. Mr. Shikwati has been consistent in his call to end aid to Africa through several interview done in major publications world wide but has been recieving criticism from several quarters.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the author of “The End of Poverty.” thinks that what Africa needs is assistance in the form of aid to be able to achieve the millenium development goals. Mr. Sachs feels that Mr. Shikwati's anti-aid arguments “have slowed life-saving interventions.” Peter Smerdon, a spokesman for a United Nations food program, said Mr. Shikwati’s policies would “kill millions of people.” Irungu Houghton, an Oxfam official in Nairobi, said they would consign poor Africans to “a major death sentence.”

William Easterly's “White Man’s Burden” lampoons Sachs as a modern version of a 19th-century utopian — that the elimination of African poverty can be achieved through 75 billion US dollars a year in Western aid and state planning where all governments have to improve agricultural technology, provide antimalaria bed nets, treat diseases like hookworm and distribute antiretroviral treatments to the H.I.V.-infected.

Bono (Paul David Hewson) lead singer and principal lyricist of the Irish rock band U2 was referred to as a represantation of foreign aid during the 2007 TED conference meeting in Arusha Tanzania where he too seemed to support the idea of Africa recieving handouts, blogger Jennifer Brea reported that Africans criticized Bono as a representation of foreign aid that they think keeps Africa in corruption and poverty and should be replaced with investment.

What will work in Africa: Aid or Trade?


Ark-888 said...

The answer to me is clearly "Trade."

No country has ever amounted to any thing off of handouts. If economic history has taught us anything it is that only through ones own enterprising industriousness and productivity can a nation, or group of nations, ever build them selves up.

It is true that Africa suffers from an extremely unfair trade relationship with the rest of the world but then again most/all African country are also very bad at opening up their own markets to outside competition.

branded said...

I take on your last point that Africans are aslo very bad at opening up their own markets to outside competition: Do you think that this is the reaspn as to why there has been gross underdevelopment in Africa?
STill on that, will the United States of Africa provide any better prospects if it sees the light of day:
By the way you can read more opinions about AFrica by logging in at