Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Shackled Continent (Part II)

Continuing the review of “The Shackled Continent” by Robert Guest, we look at what prevents Africa from finding prosperity.  As you can imagine the problems are complex, multifactorial, and inter-related.  Guest does a superb job laying out the difficulties Africa faces; one problem after another, after another, after another.  

1) Because Africa has the worst diseases, it prevents the population from working at full capacity consistently.  Malaria, yellow fever, Ebola, meter-long tape worms are just a few of the ailments that plaque Africa’s work force.  Any of these sickness if not causing death can make the patient too sick to work for months.  It’s hard to be prosperous and efficient when you can’t get out of bed due to illness.

2) Centuries ago millions of Africans were kidnapped, chained to boats, and forced into slavery.  Those who were not captured lived in fear and hiding.  While the rest of the world was advancing into the industrial age, Africa remained unchanged or perhaps digressed.  How can a continent succeed when its workforce has been shackled?  Of course slavery is the worst kind of evil possible, but it can’t be blamed for all of Africa’s problems.  And one can be angry, and place blame...but ultimately it hampers not helps with looking forward to possible solutions. If todays problems are that of the West; then all you can do is demand the West solve them.  The West is mostly not feeling guilty anymore from what great-great-great grandfathers did and also has not been at times incredibly unsuccessful with solutions.


3)Colonialism remained into the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Colonialism demoralized countries by conquering with ease, drawing arbitrary borders, and crippling African minds with a belief that Africans could not rule themselves.   Colonialism left deep scars and it is a good thing African countries gained their independence.   But it also left a lot of good things like roads, hospitals, and education systems.  70 percent of Africans today were born after independence.  Other countries have experienced colonialism and recovered.  Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910 and today is a modern, productive economy and incidently sending more missionaries to Africa than any other nation expect the United States.

4) Africa has suffered from a failure of leadership. The character of the people is hard-working, the climate is right for agriculture, the land is ripe for growth, and the diverse geography is prime for tourism.  But African leaders have failed to rise to the challenge of personal responsibility. Governments have failed the African people.  Property rights are not upheld, freedoms are not insured, and created private wealth is preyed upon.  Look at Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, where a portrait of their president hangs in every shop and everyone fears to take it down.  He seizes private property.  He sets fix prices for gas and corn causing artificial price spikes or national shortages. His wife goes on expensive shopping weekends in London until she is kicked out of the country, while Zimbabwe residents live on less than $400 per year.   And he prints money at will, causing hyperinflation (a wheelbarrow full of cash is required to pay for a sandwich).  

  (To be continued)

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