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Friday, January 17, 2003
Africa Aid That May Actually Be Working
I couldn't disagree more with those people who insist that the only way to save sub-Saharan Africa is an unending cycle of loans, and the forgiveness of said loans. It is insulting to those countries that we believe we are the only ones who can help them. It is essential we allow the nations of Africa to help themselves; eventually, they'll get it right.
I don't support abandoning food and medical aid. Africa has too many sick and hungry people, and not nearly enough supplies. Administered by international aid organizations, these donations do indeed save many Africans who would otherwise die. (Side Note: Some assistance has been a mixed blessing. Vaccines, for example, have allowed children who would otherwise have died very young to grow far longer than expected. Since African females were used to having many children to compensate for the high child mortality rate, families in Africa ballooned in size as the babies kept coming, despite the fact that most of them were remaining alive. As a result, food, already in short supply, because ever more scarce, forcing starvation upon even more people.)
The highly favourable loans given to the countries, however, rarely have a positive effect. A large chunk of the money ends up in the Swiss bank accounts of the ruling dictators. The rest is usually mishandled, and provides no ROI. As a result, it is impossible for the countries to ever repay the loans, causing NGOs and Bono to insist that we forgive them. And the cycle repeats itself, as the African states continue to lag the rest of the world in nearly every economic category. With an incentive to improve themselves, as opposed to gifts, it is possible for the African sub-continent to fix itself.
One way to encourage this sort of self-sufficiency is to ensure that producers will have access to a market for their goods. That is where African Growth and Opportunity Act comes in. The act provides 35 African countries with duty free access to the huge US market. The current bill, signed by President Clinton in May of 2000, is set to expire in 2008. Today, President Bush requested that congress extend the termination date. I can think of nothing that could help Africa more.
So while I would never have voted for him (not that I could, being Canadian and all), and I don't approve of many of his actions since taking office, I must give credit where credit is due. Mr. Bush: Good show.
posted by Dan 3:16 a.m.