TRAGEDY OF AFRICA

February 29, 2008

President Bush's trip to Africa and the promise of increased foreign aid will do little or nothing to solve the ongoing tragedy in most places on the south-of-Sahara African continent, says Walter E. Williams, a nationally syndicated columnist and a professor of economics at George Mason University.

Consider:

  • Kenya is on the brink of a civil war; more than 1,000 people have been killed and another 300,000 made homeless.
  • Rebels have invaded Chad, and in the Darfur region of the Sudan, millions of people have been displaced in a genocidal war.
  • Zimbabwe is experiencing a 66,000 percent rate of inflation; to put that inflation in perspective, the government has recently started printing 10 million Zimbabwe dollar notes; a hamburger sells for 15 million Zimbabwe dollars.
  • Liberia, Ivory Coast and the Congo have been racked by war, and slavery exists to this day in Mauritania and Sudan; added to this carnage is gross corruption, AIDS, famine and repression.

Despite the situation, the worst thing the West can do to Africa is to give more foreign aid, says Williams.  For the most part, foreign aid is government-to-government.  As such, it provides the financial resources that enable Africa's grossly corrupt and incompetent regimes to buy military equipment, pay off cronies and continue to oppress their people.

Most of what Africa needs, the West cannot give: rule of law, private property rights, fewer economic restrictions, independent judiciary and limited government, says Williams.  The one important thing we can do to help is to lower our trade barriers.  The only people who can solve the problems of Africa are Africans themselves.  It is only they who can change their leaders, end corruption and bring about transparency in government and end the African wars. Only they can stop the continent's massive brain drain.

Walter E. Williams, "Tragedy of Africa," Washington Times, February 28, 2008.

 

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