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.