A Houston Reader Reports That BARRON’s Doesn’t Get It With Regard To African Aid

From: George Weinbaum [e-mail him]

Barron`s, December 2, 2013, has an article titled, “Africa`s Aid Mess” by Paul Theroux. Here are some excerpts:

 “The desire of distant outsiders to fix Africa may be heartfelt, but it is also age-old and even quaint. Curiously repetitive in nature, renewed and revised every decade or so, it is an impulse Charles Dickens described in a wickedly accurate phrase, as `telescopic philanthropy.` That is, a focus from afar to uplift the continent: New York is squinting compassionately at Nairobi.

Never mind that Africa receives roughly $50 billion in aid annually from foreign governments, and perhaps $13 billion more from private philanthropic institutions, according to Penta`s estimate. …

Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo calls aid a `debilitating drug,` arguing that `real per-capita income in [Africa] today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population—over 350 million people—live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades. …

Abolitionist and social reformer Thomas Buxton urged in his book The African Slave Trade and its Remedy (1839) that a delegation sail to Africa to conclude treaties with African chiefs and kings, and convince them that, instead of capturing and exporting slaves, they could make a steadier (and more virtuous) profit in manufacture, and the selling of their produce. …

My modest point is that` for all the talk of `reinvention,` aid to Africa has been discussed in exactly the same terms for 173 years”. [Links added]

 We have had our “War on Poverty” for 50 years! If we keep it for another 123 years will we get a different result than of the last 50 years? Maybe, just maybe, “benign neglect” is in order. Perhaps an increase in foreign aid to Africa from $50 to $500 billion a year might get the desired results. Which are?

See previous letters from George Weinbaum.