More Suggestions for Helping Africa

Reason has a good article on helping Africa.  To some extent, their arguments echo the ones I made in my previous post:

Despite political pressures, increasing the U.S. foreign aid budget would be a
mistake. The true cause of Africa's poverty is the continent's long history of
crippling misgovernance"”a problem that is exacerbated by rich countries' trade
protectionism, particularly with respect to agriculture....

The aid is ineffective because of the appalling way in which Africa is
governed. In recent decades, of each dollar given to Africa in aid, 80 cents
were stolen by corrupt leaders and transferred back into Western bank accounts.
In total, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo estimated, "corrupt African
leaders have stolen at least $140 billion from their people in the [four]
decades since independence." All that is left when these regimes eventually
collapse is a massive public debt.

The article discusses how US and European agricultural subsidies really hurt the poorest nations:

While advocates of current market-distorting agricultural policies do not
intend to harm developing nations, the collective effect of U.S. farm policies
is devastating for producers of agricultural goods worldwide. American farm
policies might provide short-term benefits for agricultural producers in the
U.S., but those benefits are more than offset by the cost to American consumers
who pay higher taxes to support the U.S. farmers and higher prices for
agricultural products. Meanwhile, U.S. tariffs, quotas, and export subsidies
exacerbate poverty in regions like sub-Saharan Africa where people are heavily
dependent upon agriculture....

U.S. agriculture policy undermines U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty because
it drives down global agricultural prices, which in turn cost developing
countries hundreds of millions of dollars in lost export earnings. The losses
associated with cotton subsidies alone exceed the value of U.S. aid programs to
the countries concerned. The British aid organization Oxfam charges that U.S.
subsidies directly led to losses of more than $300 million in potential revenue
in sub-Saharan Africa during the 2001/02 season. More than 12 million people in
this region depend directly on the crop, with a typical small-scale producer
making less than $400 on an annual cotton harvest. By damaging the livelihoods
of people already on the edge of subsistence, U.S. agricultural policies take
away with the right hand what the left hand gives in aid and development
assistance.

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  • rob

    I think the largest problem is the lack of centralized control. If there is no structure in these sub-saharan African countries, then there is no possibility for creating the infrastructure that must be laid down in order for prosperity to occur. Direct military involvement by western nations is required to secure these countries and build their governments so they will eventually be able to deal with hooligans on their own. Once this is accomplished, aid can be used to build the infrastructure. I believe this to be the only solution. It is not one that many western countries want. No one wants to send their kids to Africa to fight and die for countries that they have no vested interest in (other than humanitary). It is easy to send money and fool yourself into thinking that it is making a difference. The unfortunate truth is that improvement from a situation such as sub-saharan Africa is witnessing is measured in men who have perished for the cause, not in dollars spent.