Thursday, February 14, 2008
Africa - My Thoughts
Last week Zimbabwe issued a ten million dollar bill (about 4 U.S. dollars)! That’s because their inflation rate is 25000 percent! A hamburger costs 15 million dollars. Look at it. I laughed, and then it broke my heart. I love Africa! I was born in Africa. I can’t describe what it’s like to experience the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Africa. Africa is not the cause of the month for me, or a photo opportunity. I lived in South Africa for the first 20 years of my life. The people are wonderful - full of joy, welcoming, and hospitable. I’ve been to Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. I’ve seen the Cape of Good Hope, climbed Table Mountain, smelled the pines of Tstsikamma, seen Victoria Falls, and stood at the convergence of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique in the Luangwa Valley, as the mighty Zambezi rolls towards Cabora Bassa. So here are my thoughts.
Most of Africa is a continent without much hope for its people. According to the Hoover Institution, two-thirds of African countries have either stagnated or shrunk economically since independence in the 1960s. Most African nations today are poorer than they were in 1980 - by very wide margins. Poverty is not a cause but a result of Africa's problems. According to Genocide Watch, about 9 million black Africans have been slaughtered through genocide and mass murder since 1960. There are a couple of sad observations one can make about this ongoing tragedy. The first is that if an equivalent number of rhinos, giraffes and lions had been similarly slaughtered, the world would be in an uproar. The second observation is that there was one African country that was the focal point of mass demonstrations, moral outcry, and economic reprisals. It was South Africa. But was South Africa the worst in terms of black lives lost? It turns out that only about 5000 South African blacks lost their lives during apartheid. World silence in the wake of millions upon millions of black lives lost on the rest of the continent, but world outrage in the case of South African apartheid and 5000 lives lost. Could it be that white Africans are held to higher standards of civility, thus our mistreatment of blacks is unacceptable, while blacks and Arabs are held to a lower standard of civility and their mistreatment of blacks is less offensive? This is the bigotry of low expectations.
According to the World Bank it takes 2 days to incorporate a company in Canada. In Mozambique it takes 153 days. Meanwhile, next door in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe's government is being given hundreds of thousands of tons of emergency supplies from the U.N.'s World Food Program. At the U.N. the head of the WFP emphasized that the famine was all due to drought and Aids, and nothing to do with Mugabe's stewardship of the economy. In 2002 Zimbabwe's government ordered those commercial farmers whose land had not yet been confiscated to cease all operations. Until we get serious about the thugs in power, no amount of “aid” will aid, because foreign aid goes to governments. So instead of helping the poor, foreign aid has enabled African tyrants to buy cronies and military equipment to stay in power, not to mention establishing multimillion dollar “retirement” accounts in Swiss banks.
What African countries need, the West cannot give. What Africans need is personal liberty. That means a political system where there are guarantees of private property rights and the rule of law. If you’re living in some impoverished African village, would you want any “wealth” if there is the constant likelihood that the government or some irate chief will take it from you, and maybe even take your life in the process? The Index of Economic Freedom published by the Wall Street Journal, lists Botswana, South Africa and Namibia as “mostly free.” Is there any mystery why they're well ahead of their neighbors? The lack of liberty means something else: A faltering nation loses its best and brightest people first. According to the last census, there were 881,300 African-born U.S. residents, of whom I am one. Want to end poverty in Africa? The first step must be removing those petty dictators who rule throughout that continent - dictatorial mini-giants like Robert Mugabe. Yes, there's hunger and poverty in Zimbabwe, and a history of racism and injustice; but the blame is to be placed squarely on Mugabe, not on a lack of help from the West.