Easterly vs. Bono

by Don Boudreaux on July 6, 2007

in Foreign Aid

Bill Easterly is always worth reading.  Here are a couple of paragraphs from his op-ed that appears in today’s edition of the Los Angeles Times:

In truth, Africans are and will be escaping poverty the same way everybody else did: through the efforts of resourceful entrepreneurs, democratic reformers and ordinary citizens at home, not through PR extravaganzas of ill-informed outsiders.

The real Africa needs increased trade from the West more than it needs more aid handouts. A respected Ugandan journalist, Andrew Mwenda, made this point at a recent African conference despite the fact that the world’s most famous celebrity activist — Bono — was attempting to shout him down. Mwenda was suffering from too much reality for Bono’s taste: “What man or nation has ever become rich by holding out a begging bowl?” asked Mwenda.

By the way, my wife’s work in Africa supports Easterly’s thesis.

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shawn July 6, 2007 at 2:43 pm

sir, thank you so much for this. Thank you ESPECIALLY to your wife for her work on this issue.

As someone whose wife is *currently* in Africa, and will likely have some discussions coming up quickly about what we can do, I appreciate that some work has been done that is in line with what I believe to be a more effective way of helping.

A while ago, while wondering about this (how to help, because foreign aid sucks) on my blog, a commenter mentioned that a way to help Africans, or any other foundering country's people, would be to invest in corporations practicing multi-national/global industry, and are building factories in these developing countries.

That's a hell of a lot less gratifying than wearing a white plastic bracelet…or buying a (shirt) from gap.

Brad July 6, 2007 at 4:02 pm

That Enterprise Africa link neat. I have a good friend who came from Ghana. He was once (gasp!) an illegal immigrant, living here on an expired student visa. He's now a US citizen and is raising the best kids in the whole neighborhood. I've passed on the link, as he still has some family business interests in Ghana.

M. Hodak July 6, 2007 at 4:18 pm

Once upon a time, I went out on a limb with an essay about how foreign aid actually retarded the countries it was intended to help. The grad admissions committee that read it must have shaken their heads, but they fortunately let me in anyway. I don't know if I'd have the same gumption as a "reasonable" adult.

Jon July 7, 2007 at 9:29 am

People don't seem to understand that capitalism breeds success and wealth creation … the problem is stability in Africa. In many areas businesses are leary of investing capital for fear of having it seized during the coup or revolution.

shawn July 7, 2007 at 10:35 am

Jon…yeah, that's what I've been thinking, too. I wonder what can be done about that? Or, do you just take the countries that you *can* trust and do what you can there?

Jon July 7, 2007 at 11:35 am

It's a quandry, basically i would say that you invest in those countries which are secure and hopefully that success will spill over into the other areas.

That could happen via trade.

The problem is that in a highly tribal culture, it becomes very difficult because people carry over tribal emnities and jealousy.

It's also much easier to pull a trigger and take from someone that has built and achieved, than to do it yourself.

M. Hodak July 7, 2007 at 3:04 pm

Anyone who wonders if capitalism can coexist with tribal cultures should look at Botswana, as should anyone who might have doubts about the potential benefits of capitalism in Africa.

Botswana had the highest African ratings for economic freedom from both the Fraser Institute and Heritage/WSJ for over the last decade. And it has the highest per capita income and fastest growth in per capita GDP of any African country.

If you've never heard of them, it's because their delightfully boring–no coups, no mass starvation… The western media has no time for boring places like that.

shawn July 8, 2007 at 2:28 pm

…this article (the LA Times article) made it to the Digg front page:


…if you, Don and Russ, believe that your jobs aren't needed, feel free to read some of the comments there (or anywhere on Digg in particular) to see what the average 20's-aged computer user believes.

Jon July 9, 2007 at 12:55 pm

In regards to shawn's post ….

SCARY! The few words of wisdom on that Digg are overwhelmed by the masses of stupidity.

shawn July 12, 2007 at 5:39 pm

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