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The 'devastating urge to do good'

Recently, Bono and Bob Geldof wagged their fingers at Canada for our government's unwillingness to hand over the money they're demanding. But if you listen to Kenyan economist James Shikwati, more big checks and aid handouts are the last thing Africa needs:

SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It's only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it's not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa ...

SPIEGEL: ... corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers ...

Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unsrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.

Obviously, it's a complex issue. No one wants to turn their back on suffering. But clearly it isn't money alone that will get Africa on the path to modernity. Africa needs reliable banks, dependable currencies, and honest government and law enforcement. Without them, people seen no reason to try to better their lives because the fruits of their labours will be stolen/inflated/taxed away. But since we can't stick those foundations of prosperity in a container and put them on a boat, and because any attempt to provide those services would be met by deafening cries of "Colonialism!" from the usual suspects, perhaps a bit of tough love, as Shikwati suggests, is in order.

(via Instapundit)


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