Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The West can't save Africa

.....Economic development in Africa will depend -- as it has elsewhere and throughout the history of the modern world -- on the success of private-sector entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and African political reformers. It will not depend on the activities of patronizing, bureaucratic, unaccountable and poorly informed outsiders.

Development everywhere is homegrown. As G-8 ministers and rock stars fussed about a few billion dollars here or there for African governments, the citizens of India and China (where foreign aid is a microscopic share of income) were busy increasing their own incomes by $715 billion in 2005.

This is not to say that all Western aid efforts in Africa are condemned to fail. Aid groups could search for achievable tasks with high potential for poor individuals to help themselves. To do so, they would have to subject themselves to independent evaluation and be accountable to the intended beneficiaries for the results. Such an approach would contrast with the prevailing norm of never holding anyone individually accountable for the results of traditional government-to-government aid programs aimed at feeding the hubristic fantasies of outside transformation of whole societies.

An example of such achievable and accountable programs can be found in western Kenya, where work by nongovernmental aid organizations to get meals and textbooks to schoolchildren raised attendance and test scores, according to careful subsequent evaluation. Perhaps these well-nourished and well-educated children will be tomorrow's leaders and entrepreneurs. Aid could also be used to support the efforts of promising local social and business entrepreneurs who already have a successful track record, people like Awuah, Keter and Maddy -- letting locals take the lead with their superior motivation and inside knowledge.

Dare one hope that in 2006, it will finally be understood that Africa's true saviors are the people of Africa....

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