July 02, 2005

Trade Not Aid for Africa

With all the self-congratulatory Live8 stuff going around, I just wanted to make clear my own solution to the problems in Africa. First of all, unlike the 'cancel the debt' types, I'd address the causes instead of the symptoms. You can relieve some short-term problems by fixing a symptom, but you can fix the problem by addressing its cause.

The cause of Africa's poverty and rampant disease is illiteracy, lack of education and lack of wealth. The principal cause behind those is the underdeveloped economy in most of Africa. What, then, is holding back economic growth?

Rampant HIV/AIDS incidence, widespread malaria infection, governmental corruption, and difficult trade barriers all contribute to the economic problems in Africa. Addressing each one of them, as well as any wars or conflicts that erupt, is the key to improving Africa's long-term chances.

HIV-AIDS - This is the hardest to fix and it's also perhaps the most serious. AIDS is all over Africa and is simply destructive to any attempt at progress. All that can be done is give what medication is possible, which is already being done in my understanding, continue the search for a cure that's ungoing in the West, and continue the education campaign. It's the education campaign that's going to have to take front seat here. Stopping the rise of AIDS cases is critical. When national leaders, like South African president Mbeki, give false information such as HIV not leading to AIDS, it horribly undermines the education efforts. People need to be educated on basic steps to avoid contracting the disease.

Malaria - Mosquito-spread malaria is a problem across Sub-Saharan Africa and we need to employ measures such as DDT to fight it. The dangers thought to be associated with DDT exposure have been shown in studies to be strongly overestimated. In any event, exposure to DDT won't be worse than malaria, which millions of Africans contract and from which many die. It's awfully hard to get an economy going when most of the workforce and capital are tied up by malaria.

Corruption - Transparency and misregulation lead to very poor environemnts for business and living. Democratic processes and protections are the best methods to police the police and bureaucracy in any country. Therefore, they all need to have free and fair elections to elect their leaders. It's not a sufficient condition, but it is a necessary one. Without representative government checking corrupt leadership is difficult at best.

Trade - The key to economic success for Sub-Saharan Africa is to have a place to sell their goods and services. The West should open up trade barriers on agriculture; without a market for their goods, they are going to have trouble expanding their economic output. Moreover, the result would be cheaper goods for US consumers.

The easiest thing we can do is make goods cheaper for us while providing economic opportunity for them. It's also very important to recovery, as fighting disease costs a lot of money. It's also often been suggested that there's an economic minimum threshold for democratization; while I don't believe that there needs to be a certain level of Purchasing Power Parity for democracy to arise, certainly it's not controversial to say that financial self-sufficiency is a firm basis for being interested in voting.

Fighting disease, establishing democracy and promoting trade are where the focus needs to be. Simply sending more money to corrupt governments isn't going to do much good and could do some real harm.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what you say however the priority is sorting out the leadership or rather the lack of leadership in these countries In the past throwing money at the problem hasnt worked The leaders just enrich themselves and the poor get nothing.Good governance is the first step The problem is changing or Changing the leadership If they wont be persuaded then other than an internal uprising and or assistance from external sources nothing will change.In many cases the current regime is so corrupt that it is naive to think change will come about peacefully and willingly.Therefore the question is how far do we go to force change on these regimes?

July 03, 2005 6:24 PM  

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