Robert Guest believes the bottom line is that “if Africa were better governed, it would be richer.” He makes the comparison of a good government (South Korea), and a bad government (North Korea). One lives with scarcity the other with plenty. One with dark homes the other with electricity. One with fear of government and threats of being thrown in a labor camp, and the other with freedom of the press and capitalism.
He goes on to compare Zambia with North Korea. Zambia in the 1960’s had rich copper mines, that a well intentioned president with plenty of foreign aid quickly nationalized. The mining industry became bloated and corrupt. When the price of copper fell the industry could no longer be profitable. The copper mines were shut and now Zambia is poorer than it was 50 years ago.
Contrast Zambia with Botswana, which he compares with South Korea. Botswana has one of the deepest supply of diamonds. Botswana used this resource wisely and plunged money into infrastructure, health care, and education. Private business was encouraged. Government was one of integrity. The budget was in surplus. Income grew from subsistence to well over $3000 per person in 35 years.
But Botswana is a small country of million people. The size of perhaps one of the larger slums (Kibera) in Nairobi. Africa needs more Botswana’s, and saner politics could make that happen.