I'm blogging here at about 300 baud so I will have to, for once, keep it brief. There appears to be a fair amount of momentum building to do "something" about conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, which have sucked, still suck, and will probably continue to suck without some help.
Unfortunately, many of the usual suspects are pushing the "US does not send enough aid" line as the main failure mode for Africa. A full fisking of this will have to wait for a better connection, but suffice it to say that we have already dropped billions in direct aid and billions more in loans and loan forgiveness, without much benefit.
Who do you give the aid to? The vast majority of sub-Saharan governments are full of corrupt looters, who will always find ways to put most of the aid money in their own pocket and those of their cronies. Just look at what happened to oil for food money in Iraq, and that money had MUCH better oversight than the money that goes to Africa.
Even when the aid does not come in easily looted currency, but rather in food or vaccines distributed by NGO's, the aid can help support totalitarianism and even genocide in disturbing ways. The problem in Africa are the same that financial aid faces anywhere,
ie: NGO's can only go where the dictator allows. Dictators only allow
NGO's to go to towns or regions that support him, limiting access and
starving out other areas of the country. Food aid also hurts local
farmers by depressing local prices. To some extent, well-meaning NGO's
fulfill the role of Carmella Soprano, helping the brutal criminal she
is married to maintain a facade of stability and normality to the
Zimbabwe is a classic example. People are clearly suffering there, but it is just as clear that any aid given to the people there just give comfort and additional power to Robert Mugabe, who has single-handedly engineered the current disaster.
The first thing we need to do in Africa is drop our trade barriers with them. More than ephemeral aid, they need the chance to build real businesses and real markets, and the US is the only real candidate (the EU certainly won't do it unilaterally). Its insane to me that a few Carolina-based Senators are so terrified of competition from these nations, and have to date blocked this obvious move.
The second thing we need to do is to find a country and make an example of it. Lets find a single country that has a reasonably freedom-oriented government with (for Africa) moderate levels of corruption and lets focus our aid and effort at them -- lowered tariffs, aid, pressure for more liberalization, loans, vaccines, the works. African countries have had negative reinforcement for bad government for years - lets try positive reinforcement, making it clear that democracy and good government can provide an entre to prosperity and to participation in the world community.