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Jason Holliston
Friday, July 22, 2005  
Africa: Is More Money the Answer?

Let me put this out there before I get started: I do respect people that are really trying to help sub-Saharan Africa move into the First World and save the millions that die every year from hunger, malaria, and violence. Their hearts are in the right place. But, just because I respect them does not mean I agree with them.

A few weeks ago, right before the London bombings changed everyone's topic of conversation, the G8 met and committed themselves to a huge amount of money to African countries, either as grants or loans. That's great, except for one small thing: it won't help much at all. The problem isn't how much money the First World gives them, but the systems they have in place there to give their own people and governments a chance to thrive. Property rights are severely curtailed in most sub-Saharan countries, and rarely are our grants given on the condition of improving those rights. AIDS and malaria are wracking the continent, while we shower them with condoms and disallow use of DDT to control mosquitoes. Old tribal systems of power have gotten in the way of establishing more efficient, scalable systems of power.

I believe they'll get there, eventually. Once they cycle through trying everything that doesn't work, it's almost inevitable they'll get around to trying a system of market-based, liberal democracy. Whenever you think that simply throwing billions their way will help, consider the fact that we've been throwing cash their way for 30 years, and they are worse off then they were when the colonial powers from Europe left. That tells me that it's not the amount of money that's to blame.

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