Tuesday, June 14, 2005

David Frum's Diary on Africa Relief

David Frum's Diary on National Review Online has been making some excellent points about Africa in two of his journal pieces.

Here are a few excerpts:

Zimbabwe was given every chance to succeed - open
access to global markets on a preferential basis, massive foreign aid from all quarters, technical assistance in whatever field was requested. We started out with an educated elite - many of whom had lived abroad for a number of years. We had a diverse economy based on mining, agriculture, industry and commerce. We were virtually debt free. The world was at our feet but we blew it.

"Today Zimbabwe is a basket case - we cannot feed our people, we have destroyed over half the formal sector jobs in the economy, our industry is in tatters, all other sectors of the economy either shrinking or stagnant. Our social services are a mess and life expectancy has halved. We are poorer than we were 30 years ago and there is no sign of an end to the decline and all pervading despair.

"No amount of aid or debt relief or trade concessions are going to help this country get out of the hole it is in - only a radical change of direction and leadership will do that and I am afraid that this same analysis applies to many countries on the continent.

"People talk of a 'Marshal Plan' for Africa, failing to recognize that countries like Zimbabwe have been the recipients of more aid per capita than was applied to Europe in 1945. People talk about debt relief - we are not servicing our debt at all at present, the US$7 billion in debt that we owe is virtually free money anyway. It's not even trade - African countries have had access to European markets on an extremely preferential basis for 25 years and yet only a tiny minority have taken up the opportunities available.

"Our collapse is self-inflicted, its home grown, and until this sort of nonsense is addressed by the global and the African community, there is no hope for countries like Zimbabwe, the Congo, Sudan, Somalia and so on. We are our own worst enemies and we must fix what is wrong here at home in Africa, before we can make effective use of the generosity of the developed world and the new global village that offers such marvelous opportunities and freedom.

"When it comes to the wholesale theft of national resources and the subversion of the rule of law and democracy, our leaders are in a league all by themselves. We have become adept at manipulating the media and foreign governments and the multinational agencies such as the World Bank and the UN. To this long list we perhaps should now add the G8 leadership and Bob Geldof. We allow African leaders to strut across the platforms of the world stage as if they were acting in the real interests of their people and not acting simply as self-serving tyrants.

"Quite frankly until African leaders themselves put their own houses in order there should be no talk of assistance of any kind. It is ridiculous that Ethiopia with its rich agricultural resources has been supported by massive food aid for over 20 years. Just take a look at Nigeria - one of the oil giants of the world yet threatened with instability and rising poverty that belies its wealth and status.

"Development and poverty alleviation take discipline, honesty, openness and democracy in national political life. It takes hard work and commitment and the strict observance of the rule of law and the guarantee of investor rights and business contracts. If African leaders applied these principles to their own and their public lives they would bring prosperity and freedom

The debate over African aid has been influenced enough by the experience of the past half century that aid proponents feel they must make at least some nods toward issues of accountability and governance. But they say they can't do more than nod because impoverished countries like Benin or Niger can hardly be expected to generate capable public sectors and independent civic institutions overnight. Fair enough, maybe. But South Africa has--or has had--a capable public sector and independent civic institutions. The problem there is that the political authorities are at work traducing and destroying those assets for their own selfish advantage.

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