To Western development experts, Africa remains a puzzle-box of failed development policy. It is blessed with immense natural wealth yet it seems inexorably mired in squalor, misery, deprivation and chaos. When the World Bank in 2008 adjusted its yardstick for extreme poverty from $1.00 to $1.25 a day, it found, in the words of one New York Times report on the change, that
[w]hile most of the developing world has managed to reduce poverty, the rate in Sub-Saharan Africa, the world’s poorest region, has not changed in nearly 25 years. . . . Half of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa were living below the poverty line in 2005, the same as in 1981. That means about 389 million lived under the poverty line in 2005, compared with 200 million in 1981.1
This is typical of the kind of language used to speak about Africa, and there are plenty more examples of it: In 2003, the United Nations Development Program warned that at the prevailing rates it would take sub-Saharan Africa another 144 years to reach some of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan repeated the mantra at the African Union Summit in Abuja last January, and was echoed by Gilbert Houngbo, the UN African Development director: “The [African] continent will fail to reach the goal of slashing poverty in half by 2015.” One could probably wallpaper every house in Nairobi with such statements.
The glacial pace of progress in sub-Saharan Africa is quite naturally cause for much frustration and confusion in Western diplomatic circles—as well as for endless conferences, seminars, meetings and reports. No wonder, since more than $450 billion has been pumped into Africa since 1960, with little to show for it except crumbling buildings and scores of failed and failing states. Yet none of this Western hand-wringing is ever turned inward to examine why a succession of Western nostrums—from import substitution to technology transfer to infrastructure-first policies and more—have not worked. Were such introspection to take place, an uncomfortable fact would be uncovered: The problem is not with Western medicines as such; it is that Western development doctors have not bothered to find out anything about their patients.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the only major region on the planet that Westerners, and many Africans, too, discuss almost exclusively in terms of “development.” No other region is conceived of in such truncated terms, cut off from considerations of history, culture and politics. Africa is not poor because of anything inherently the matter with African societies—quite the contrary. Africa is not poor because of the residue of colonialism or the machinations of large global corporations. Africa is not poor because of poor resource endowments or climate. Africa is poor because its dysfunctional, kleptocratic regimes have disorganized its societies, and Western countries and their aid vehicles have been unwittingly complicit in this. Africa is rich; only its politics are poor.
Searching for Success
Having not yet reached this conclusion, but wanting to justify all the effort made and money spent, the mainly Western-run and Western-endowed institutional stewards of the development industry have been at pains to find African “success stories.” They have thus been duly discovered. To be sure, there has been some progress, mainly in smaller countries: Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Mauritius, Rwanda and Uganda, for example. But these successes are overshadowed by the large meltdowns and crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. The large countries that should be the continent’s engines of growth are instead dragging it down.
More important, some apparent progress is only apparent. Fueled by high commodity prices, Africa recorded a respectable 5.2 percent rate of economic growth in 2007. Now that commodity prices are falling in consequence of a global recession, however, all that growth and more will be undone. Angola, for example, maintained the continent’s fastest rate of economic growth of 20.8 percent in 2007, occasioned by high oil prices. But Angola’s oil bonanza has not helped the poor, has not been invested for future growth, and certainly will not continue, as prices have now fallen below $50 per barrel.
Ghana, too, is an emerging economic success story according to the World Bank, while Uganda has chalked up impressive growth rates averaging 8 percent in recent years. But real success stories do not come with a bloated bureaucracy headed by ninety cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, as in Ghana. Nor do they come with a budget that is 55 percent dependent on foreign assistance, as in Uganda.
Other World Bank African success stories haven’t fared any better, either. In 1994, the Bank evaluated the performance of 29 “adjusting” African countries to which it had provided more than $20 billion from 1981 to 1991 under its Structural Adjustment Programs. Its March 1994 report, Adjustment Lending in Africa, concluded that only six countries had performed well: Gambia, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, a failure rate in excess of 80 percent. More distressing, this group had shrunk to only Burkina Faso and Ghana by 1996. One of those that shrunk away, Zimbabwe, had by 2008 descended into economic freefall and violence, with the world’s highest-ever rate of inflation, stated as “11 million” percent—whatever that can possibly mean in practice. In Bulawayo, the Petra High School now demands payment of school fees in cows. Still, the Bank keeps trotting out its phantom list. In recent years it has identified Guinea, Lesotho and Eritrea as the new “success stories.” Expect these successes to vanish soon.
To its credit, the Bush Administration understood much of what was wrong with business-as-usual African development policy. It sought its own success stories, real ones this time, with a new approach—the Millennium Challenge Account.
The Millennium Challenge Account, established in 2003 with a $5.5 billion budget, was “performance-based”—a welcome departure from the old development paradigm. Aid would be given to only those countries that could “show results” in three areas: ruling justly, promoting economic freedom and investing in people. Not only that, the charter for aid would be developed jointly, involving the recipient in the process from the start. The program was specific, too, with meaningful metrics. For example, “ruling justly” specifies six benchmarks: civil liberties, political rights, voice and accountability, government effectiveness, rule of law, and control of corruption. “Encouraging economic freedom” also has six benchmarks, and “investing in people” has four. All 16 are operationalized so that they can actually be measured.
Unfortunately, so stringent were these conditions that few African countries were eligible, and the work on the charters was so time-consuming that some U.S. Congressmen began complaining about how long the process was taking. So for political reasons the Millennium Challenge Corporation speeded things up. It even approved an $11 million grant to Tanzania—ostensibly to combat corruption, but in reality to qualify the country for a bigger aid package. In other words, Tanzania had to be given U.S. aid in order to become eligible for U.S. aid.
This would not be such a bad thing, if it had worked. But how successful has Tanzania been in fighting corruption? Alas, when President Bush visited Tanzania on February 18, 2008, he found that the country, which was receiving $698 million in Millennium Challenge grants, had no cabinet. It had been dissolved over a corruption scandal involving the award of a $172.5 million contract to supply a hundred megawatts of emergency power to a Texas-based company that did not exist. Even anti-corruption czar Edward Hosea was implicated. Other African countries that have received Millennium Challenge grants, such as Kenya and Uganda, are equally dubious success stories.
The Real Causes of Africa’s Economic Crisis
The global development elite might just be the most innocently narcissistic group of otherwise intelligent people on the planet. From all appearances, and with too few exceptions, they are in love with their own theories, methodologies and literature, while evincing almost no curiosity about the places to which these paragons of brilliance supposedly apply. If a carpenter is to build new windows or cabinets for a dwelling, one of the first things he or she does is take the measure of the space, and its style, into which the new windows or cabinets are supposed to go. Context matters if your project is to be a success.
What square and linear footage and architectural type are to carpentry, history and culture are to development. Alas, here is the problem: The experts rarely learn the language of the country or anything about its culture. They rarely travel outside major cities, and then only to view model projects, usually from the window of a speeding official car. They speak only with those who know Western languages and often have Western educations, most often members of the small national elite who may or may not take the interests of the larger society to heart. Most do not often talk to average Africans, even if they share a language in common, because they are important and busy people. Besides, the average African, like the average American or European or Chinese or Indian, knows nothing of Hecksher-Olin curves, budgetary models or the theory of comparative advantage.
But if the Western development elite were to investigate African culture, they would discover that an African economy consists of three sectors: the traditional and the modern (also called formal), with a transitional (or informal) sector stuck between them. These sectors operate by distinct principles and logic.
The vast majority of the Africans who produce Africa’s real wealth—cash crops, diamonds, gold and other minerals—live in the traditional and informal sectors. Yet development projects have focused overwhelmingly on the modern, mainly urban sector on the assumption that this sector would be the engine hauling the rest of the society into prosperity. This has it precisely backwards. Helping the modern sector—the only sector the experts could really hope to understand—has only strengthened the artificial, parasitic African vampire state in its quest to devour the rest of the society. The stark truth is that meaningful development and poverty reduction cannot occur by ignoring Africa’s traditional and transitional sectors, nor can these sectors be developed without an operational understanding of the institutions supporting them.
The tragedy is that few in the West, or even in Africa, understand these institutions, despite the fact that, as is obvious from even a National Geographic-style historical sideswipe, traditional Africa actually works. It may not be efficient by modern Western standards, but it has sustained its people for a dozen or so centuries. The people may lack formal education, but they are typically hardworking and enterprising. Above all they have what James C. Scott calls metis, a Greek term meaning intimate knowledge of social space that comes only from experience.2
Using their raw intelligence, ingenuity, skills and knowledge of the connections between society and environment, they have produced some of the world’s most beautiful textiles (kente, for example) and greatest works of art. The sculptures of Yoruba, Ibo bronzes, the beads of the Masai, Fang masks, Zulu headrests and Sotho snuff containers are recognized worldwide as masterpieces.
The importance of traditional African society is even clearer when we examine it in terms of political economy. The means of production in traditional Africa were privately owned. Huts, spears and agricultural implements were all private property, yet “private” in a special way. Whereas in the West, the basic economic and social unit is the individual, in traditional Africa it has been the extended family or the clan. The extended family, however, is a private corporate entity separate from tribal government. The family, not the government, owns the land and tools. The family pools the resources of its members to produce agricultural products, the surpluses of which are sold on free markets at the village and regional levels. Here prices are determined by bargaining; they are not fixed by tribal chiefs or anyone else. Such markets existed widely in sub-Saharan Africa before the advent of colonialism. Some on the edge of routes linking Africa to other civilizations—Timbuktu, for example—were very large, cosmopolitan and sophisticated in terms of the means and methods of exchange.
Africans generally went about their economic activities on their own initiative and free will. They did not line up at the entrance of the chief’s hut to apply for permits before engaging in trade or production. What and how much they produced were literally their own business.3
A woman who produced kenkey, garri or semolina herself decided to produce those items. No one forced her to do so. Nor did anyone order the fishermen, artisans, craftsmen or even hunters what to produce.
In modern parlance, such people are called free enterprisers. By this definition, the kente weavers of Ghana, the Yoruba sculptors, the gold-, silver- and blacksmiths, as well as the various craftsmen, traders and farmers all over the continent were free enterprisers. There was some state intervention in the economy, in the kingdoms of Dahomey and Asante for example, but these were the exceptions rather than the rule, because most pre-colonial African states lacked the administrative instruments necessary to control their economies. In Gold Coast, for example, gold-mining was open to all subjects of the states of Adanse, Assin, Denkyira and Mampong. Some chiefs taxed mining operations at the rate of one-fifth of the annual output. In some states, all gold mined on certain days was ceded to the throne. But the mines were in general not owned and operated by the chiefs. Rather, they granted mining concessions.
Rise of the Vampire State
Western colonialism in Africa disrupted but did not destroy the traditional political economy in most places. Different colonial masters adopted different approaches to their colonies—and this is no place to rehearse more than a century of complex and diverse history—but few saw merit in uprooting the economic substructures that made the colonies productive and exploitable in the first place. With a few exceptions, like Belgium in the Congo and other powers in urban areas and certain highly coveted mineral-rich provinces, the Europeans did not alter the patterns of the rural African political economy all that much.
After winning independence for their respective countries, African nationalist leaders tried to change all that. Hailed as liberation heroes and swept into office with large if often prefabricated parliamentary majorities, they were virtually deified. Unfortunately, while the countries were now independent from their colonial masters, the minds of their new leaders were often not. They wanted to be modern. The traditional structures were held in contempt and castigated as too “backward and primitive” for the rapid modernization of Africa. Foreign systems, especially from the socialist “East”, were aped and imposed on Africa. Few ever thought to build upon their own heritage of participatory democracy based upon consensus (under the chiefs), free village markets and free enterprise. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, for example, rejected democracy as an “imperialist dogma.” He rejected capitalism—something that was, in fact, as African as the sunset on the savannah—as a Western colonial institution. Scores of markets that had thrived for centuries were razed after being denounced as “dens of profiteers.”
A plethora of state controls arose—ostensibly to eradicate the vestiges of colonialism and protect the new nations from foreign exploitation. This was called “socialism”, and it was averred to be exactly what it was not: inherently African. Whatever the reasons put forward, the truth was that state command of the economy allowed the new elites to consolidate their authority and benefit their kith and kin. Bizarre systems arose in which enormous power was concentrated, first, in the hands of the state, and eventually just one individual. Even pro-Western countries such as Côte D’Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Togo became dirigiste one-party states or military dictatorships. These monstrous systems bore no affinity whatsoever to indigenous pre-colonial systems. Change the skin color of the rulers and (only sometimes) the locations of their treasure chests, and they better resemble the colonial systems they replaced.
The West unwittingly compounded this tragedy. In its haste to develop Africa, whether from Cold War considerations or post-colonial guilt, billions of dollars in Western development aid flowed into the modern sector and urban arena—the seat of government and the abode of the ruling elite. The informal and the traditional sectors were neglected: Agriculture was denigrated as an inferior form of occupation; industrialization was the rage. Huge foreign loans were contracted to set up a dizzying array of state enterprises.
As a rule, these Western-funded state enterprises became towering edifices of gross inefficiency, waste and graft. State controls created artificial shortages and black markets, providing rich opportunities for rent-seeking activities and illicit enrichment. Import and exchange controls were the most lucrative: Government ministers typically demanded 10 percent commissions before issuing import licenses. Very quickly, the ruling elites learned to amass private wealth, punish their rivals and perpetuate their grip on power. Government as we know it ceased to exist. In its place arose the vampire state—a government hijacked by a gang of unrepentant bandits and vagabonds in Ray-Ban sunglasses and Italian suits who used the machinery of the state to enrich themselves, their cronies and their tribesmen while excluding everyone else. It became a system of economic apartheid.
Over time, the adolescent vampire state matured into an adult monstrosity—a “coconut republic” characterized by incessant power struggles. Politically excluded groups occasionally rose up in rebellion, and sometimes the coconut republic imploded, sucking the country into a vortex of carnage and mayhem: Somalia (1993), Rwanda (1994), Burundi (1995), Zaire or the Democratic Republic of the Congo (1996), Sierra Leone (1998), Côte d’Ivoire (2000), Togo (2005). For some of these countries, there is still no end in sight.
More coconuts may be about to fall: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Zimbabwe. Behind the deceptive façade of World Bank economic success stories, the core political sociology of sub-Saharan Africa points to a series of disasters ahead. Only a seasoned Western development expert, trained to see economics as something apart from politics and culture—like the World Bank, for example, which for years defined something as fundamental as corruption to be marginal to its mandate—could possibly expect economic successes to be built on foundations of despotism, repression, state terrorism and manipulated ethnic hatred.
To turn things around requires market liberalization, decentralization or diffusion of power, and the adoption of democratic power-sharing arrangements particular to local realities. The good news is that all these principles of governance are already deeply embedded in Africa’s own traditional institutions. The bad news is that the ruling elites aren’t interested, for genuine reform would threaten their business empires and undermine their political support base. It would also expose the crimes they have committed against their people.
Thus, even under pressure from external donors, these vampire elites implement only the barest minimum of cosmetic reforms to ensure continued flow of Western aid. Ask them to cut bloated state bureaucracies or government spending, and they will set up a Ministry of Less Government Spending. Ask them to curb corruption, and they will set up Anti-Corruption Commissions with no teeth, and then sack the commissioner if he sniffs too close to the fat cats (Kenya 2004 ), issue a Government White Paper to exonerate corrupt ministers (Ghana in 1996), or send the anti-corruption czar off to the United Kingdom for graduate studies (Nigeria in 2007). Ask them to establish democracy, and they will empanel a coterie of sycophants to write the electoral rules, toss opposition leaders into jail, hold fraudulent elections and return themselves to power (Côte D’Ivoire, Rwanda).
Tighten the conditionality of Western largesse, and these days the Chinese government will offer good terms without conditions in what can only be described as a cynical “chopsticks mercantilism” suffused with obsequious platitudes. The Chinese don’t seem to mind dealing with the vampire elites. One-stop shopping for China’s voracious appetite for natural resources is, after all, quite convenient. Indeed, some say that China has a secret plan—called the Chongqing Experiment—to eventually settle 12 million Chinese farmers in Africa. Sounds outlandish, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
In any event, the so-called reform process has been stalled through vexatious chicanery, willful deception and creative acrobatics for decades. Only 16 out of the 54 African countries are democratic, and all but a few of these 16 are frail or manqué. Only eight, after all, have reasonably free and independent media. Only one or two countries have consistent levels of economic growth sufficient to keep up with population growth.
But so what? Why should the United States and other wealthy countries, with so many problems of their own, care what happens in Africa? The answer is two-fold, one part practical, one part ethical.
The practical part is that without genuine reform, more African countries will implode, for no amount of debt relief and increased aid will help Africa under current political circumstances. Those implosions will generate humanitarian crises, complete with refugee flows, pandemic diseases and, very likely, mass murder. They will also create failed states ripe for exploitation by terrorists, be a boon to international criminal syndicates, and perhaps worst of all, deprive the world of African participation in global trade and growth.
The ethical part is simple to state but hurtful to hear: In destroying their economies, Africa’s ruling elites received much unwitting help from abroad. The West looked the other way as its aid programs propped up tyrannical regimes. Western aid programs, in any case, were saddled with a multiplicity of conflicting objectives, trapped in a maze of red tape. We must be honest with ourselves. During the Cold War, Western aid was mainly about buying political loyalty, not alleviating poverty. Western largesse was too often turned, as George Soros has put it, to “serve the interests of the donors first and the needs of the recipients second.”4 Americans and Westerners should therefore care what happens to Africa because its problems are in no small part the West’s making—no, not the sins of slavery, colonialism and imperialism, but more recently committed sins of selfishness, ignorance and, now we see it revealed on a massive scale, false pride.
The way to begin repairing the Western approach is, first, to quash the feel-good impulse to throw money at a problem. The United Nations has called on rich countries to increase their foreign aid to 0.7 percent of GDP by 2015. G-8 summits invariably feature promises to increase African aid—to $50 billion per year, for example, at the Gleneagles, Scotland summit in July 2005. Enough of such nonsense; enough grand but vain initiatives. Enough, too, of the ten-year attention deficit cycle wherein a gaggle of rock stars, anti-poverty activists and heads of state draw up mega-plans and hold mega-concerts to launch international rescue missions for Africa, which in the end only enable the vampire states to grow fatter, leading predictably to the start of the next cycle.
A second thing to stop doing is proposing debt cancellation. In recent years, a coalition of organizations, including Jubilee 2000 and Oxfam, have campaigned for complete cancellation of Africa’s $400 billion foreign debt, much of which is owed to Western donors and multilateral financial institutions such as the World Bank. This proposal qualifies as a quintessential example of creating a debasing moral hazard by rewarding past reckless behavior. It says to Africa’s vampire elites, “not only have you stolen and used for patronage all this borrowed money, you don’t even need to pay it back.” By ignoring the fundamental issue of governance, the debt-relief approach deepens the error of thinking that economics can be separated from politics and culture.
The third and perhaps most important thing to stop doing is pursuing aid policies that are centered around individual leaders and the modern sector. The West has made an enormous investment in the euphonious verbiage of Africa’s gangster leaders, who cynically parrot slogans such as “democracy”, “accountability” and “rule of law” to secure Western aid. President Clinton in particular fell head over heels for this charade during his historic visit to Africa in March 1998. Clinton hailed Presidents Laurent Kabila of Congo, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Isaiah Afwerki of Eritrea as the “new leaders of Africa” and spoke fondly of the “new African renaissance sweeping the continent.” But barely two months after President Clinton’s return to the United States, Ethiopia and Eritrea were at war and other “new leaders” were pounding each other in the Congo conflict. As if these embarrassments were not enough, the Clinton Administration’s other African “partners in development” turned out to be old-fashioned reform con-artists and crackpot democrats.
One would think the Americans, at least, would by now have learned a thing or two. When the West needed allies in Africa during the Cold War, several African leaders tried to paint themselves as “anti-communist” even as they established neo-communist regimes in their own countries. When President George W. Bush announced the War on Terror after September 11, 2001, all sorts of African scoundrels and loonies claimed that they, too, were fighting against terrorism, when they were instead experts in the practice of state terrorism. Even the regimes of Museveni, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe made such fatuous claims. Former President Charles Taylor of Liberia went so far as to establish an “anti-terrorist unit”, which he used to terrorize his own people. But the prize for audacity has to go to the warlords of Mogadishu who, when they were not busy terrorizing residents of the city, formed themselves into the “Coalition Against Terrorism” (and received CIA funding for so doing) in 2006.
Will anything work? Yes. We can call it “smart aid” for short. Smart aid would operate by four common sense principles. The first is “tough love.” The West needs to shed political correctness and speak honestly about Africa. An African despot is a despot no less than an Asian or Latin American one, and should be called as such. That’s the “tough” part. As for the “love”, we need to make it plain that we understand the late British economist Lord Peter Bauer’s observation that “despotism does not inhere in the African tradition.” Our problem is not with Africans; it is with African elites. It is true, as Soros has said, that “the main cause of misery and poverty in the world is bad government.”5 It is also true, as many have pointed out, that it is difficult to impose conditions on sovereign states from the outside, even if the Chinese were not behaving in ways that undermine those conditions. But we can offer incentives for countries moving in the right direction, at least for the few African governments that are genuinely seeking to improve conditions, and we can showcase good government.
The second principle of smart aid is to acknowledge that Africa’s problems cannot be micro-managed or solved from Washington, London or Paris. Solutions must be internally generated. Real African solutions will almost invariably entail returning to and building upon Africa’s own institutions of participatory democracy, free markets and free trade. It will acknowledge the centrality of the traditional and transitional sectors.
Third, the African people, through African civil society groups, need to be empowered to monitor how aid money is spent and to instigate reform from within. Empowerment requires arming the African people with the information, the freedom and the institutional means to unchain themselves from the vicious grip of poverty and oppression. Here the good news is that Africa already has its own Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights (the 1981 Banjul Charter), which recognizes the individual’s rights to liberty and to the security of his person (Article 6); to receive information, to express and disseminate his opinions (Article 9); to free association (Article 10); to assemble freely with others (Article 11); and to participate freely in the government of his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law (Article 13). The bad news is that most African regimes ignore these rights.
The United States and other states therefore need to invest in the same kind of public diplomacy for autocratic states that worked in the Cold War and could work in the War on Terror. What’s wrong with the idea of Radio Free Africa? Why shouldn’t U.S. embassies in Africa get more actively engaged? Why shouldn’t the U.S. government encourage the international wing of American labor unions to get more involved, too? Fifty years were spent during the Cold War perfecting the technique of undermining despotisms that repress their own people. Let’s put that expertise to use in Africa.
The fourth principle of smart aid is that the objectives of aid need to be more clearly defined, and defined in such a way that all sectors of African societies, not just the urban-modern sector, are taken into account. The ruling vampire elites know what they want; so should we. Specifically, we should want six key institutional foundations of decent governance:
- An independent central bank to ensure monetary and economic stability, as well as to stanch capital flight out of Africa. The World Bank should therefore desist from dealing with African countries without an independent central bank. Failing that, governors of central banks in a region may be rotated to remove them from undue political or executive pressure.
- An independent judiciary to ensure rule of law. Supreme Court judges in Africa, for example, may be rotated within a region or, say, within Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone countries with similar laws.
- A free and independent media to ensure free flow of information. Smart aid would encourage the privatization of state-owned media—especially radio, the medium of the masses.
- Independent electoral commissions to ensure the representation of all political parties, not a commission packed with government appointees.
- Efficient and professional civil services to deliver essential social services on the basis of need, not ethnicity or political affiliation.
- The establishment of neutral and professional armed and security forces to protect the people, not fire on them.
If these six institutions can be established in a majority of African countries, the continent’s woes will dramatically abate. Of course, this will be extremely difficult. Rather than implement any of these reforms, the leadership of the vampire regimes will again badger Western donors for more foreign aid, citing humanitarian crises and Western original sin. And the West, blinded by its own interests, racial hyper-sensitivity and guilt over the iniquities of the slave trade and colonialism, will be tempted, once again, to oblige.
But the West should not oblige. It should instead accept the difficulties, and resolve to fight patiently but persistently against African despotisms, just as it fought communist despotisms for decades on end during the Cold War. The West should finally lay down sound markers for what it wants, and know that in so doing it is in harmony with Africa’s own best traditions. We should stop talking about Africa as a development case. We should start talking about Africa as a freedom case.
Reuters, New York Times, August 26, 2008.
Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (Yale University Press, 1998).
Of course, in a continent so large and diverse there were many variations on the theme. In West Africa, for example, market activity has been dominated by women for centuries. And they traded to make a profit, but again in a way particular to the culture. Whereas in the West, profit is appropriated by the entrepreneur and his or her investors, it is shared differently in traditional Africa. Under the abusa system of West African cocoa farmers, for example, profit is divided three ways: a third to the owner of the farm, another third to the laborers and the remaining third set aside for farm maintenance and expansion.
David Bank, “Soros Insists Government Funding Must Raise Philanthropy for Gains”, Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2002.
Bank, Wall Street Journal.