July 8, 2007


What Bono doesn't say about Africa: Celebrities like to portray it as a basket case, but they ignore very real progress. (William Easterly, July 6, 2007, LA Times)

[T]he problem with all this Western stereotyping is that it manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of some current victories, fueling support for patronizing Western policies designed to rescue the allegedly helpless African people while often discouraging those policies that might actually help.

Let's begin with those rampaging Four Horsemen. Do they really explain Africa today? What percentage of the African population would you say dies in war every year? What share of male children, age 10 to 17, are child soldiers? How many Africans are afflicted by famine or died of AIDS last year or are living as refugees?

In each case, the answer is one-half of 1% of the population or less. In some cases it's much less; for example, annual war deaths have averaged 1 out of every 10,800 Africans for the last four decades. That doesn't lessen the tragedy, of course, of those who are such victims, and maybe there are things the West can do to help them. But the typical African is a long way from being a starving, AIDS-stricken refugee at the mercy of child soldiers. The reality is that many more Africans need latrines than need Western peacekeepers — but that doesn't play so well on TV.

Further distortions of Africa emanate from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's star-studded Africa Progress Panel (which includes the ubiquitous Geldof). The panel laments in its 2007 news release that Africa remains "far short" of its goal of making "substantial inroads into poverty reduction." But this doesn't quite square with the sub-Saharan Africa that in 2006 registered its third straight year of good GDP growth — about 6%, well above historic averages for either today's rich countries or all developing countries. Growth of living standards in the last five years is the highest in Africa's history.

The real Africa also has seen cellphone and Internet use double every year for the last seven years. Foreign private capital inflows into Africa hit $38 billion in 2006 — more than foreign aid. Africans are saving a higher percentage of their incomes than Americans are (so much for the "poverty trap" of being "too poor to save" endlessly repeated in aid reports). I agree that it's too soon to conclude that Africa is on a stable growth track, but why not celebrate what Africans have already achieved?

Tough to assuage your guilt if you acknowledge progress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 8, 2007 8:44 PM

poverty pimp?

Posted by: ic at July 8, 2007 11:34 PM

The global socialists can not tolerate a prosperous africa. They call it "exploitation".

Posted by: Brian at July 9, 2007 12:45 AM

The lumping together of Africa obscures opportunities for progress by confusing countries that are doing some things right, e.g., Botswana, with the insane basket cases like Zimbabwe.

Posted by: John Thacker at July 9, 2007 2:42 AM

..umm, Africa is a continent, right?

Posted by: JonofAtlanta at July 9, 2007 5:52 PM