Wednesday, December 6, 2006

I guess it rains in Africa: I found this article a few weeks ago, but I thought it was worth note. Walrus says that not only is the latest conventional wisdom — that aid to Africa is more harmful than good — true, but that the entire Western system of economic aid, IMF/World Bank loans and domestic Western trade barriers is a kind of rigged game. The West can win or tie, and Africa can only lose.

Most people are aware of the African condition: corruption, conflict, famine, aids, wretched governance, grinding poverty. At the time of its independence in 1957, Ghana — the second sub-Saharan African country to free itself of colonial rule and the white hope (as it were) of the emerging continent — was in development terms on a par with South Korea, near the bottom of the scale. Today, the United Nations' Human Development Index ranks South Korea twenty-eighth among 177 nations, Ghana 138th. For many, this is a vivid and fair symbol of the African record in the past half-century.


The betrayal by the new elites is not the entire story of the continent's continuing crises. For centuries Africa's history and development had been profoundly influenced by outsiders, both Europeans and Arabs, and external influence by no means disappeared with independence. And just as most of the pre-independence impact was exploitative, so has it remained. Yet the conventional wisdom remains the opposite: Africa is the problem, the West is the solution. The Blair commission on Africa, the 2005 Gleneagles summit and the Geldof/Bono singalongs are all manifestations of the West fulfilling its sacred moral obligation to save Africa from itself.

The reality is demonstrably different. The fact is the West is deeply complicit in the crises bedevilling Africa, and we're up to our necks in all manner of retrograde practices, virtual coconspirators with monstrous African Big Men in underdeveloping the continent and betraying its people. In almost every case of egregious African governance, Western powers have played a central role. Hardly a single rogue government would have attained power and remained in office without the active support of one or another Western government, primarily the United States and France, with the United Kingdom and Belgium in the game as well. And few of the conflicts that have ravaged the continent would have lasted long without the active intervention of mainly Western governments or, in certain cases, the USSR, including the promiscuous provision of weapons to any and all parties.

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