Archive for August, 2008|Monthly archive page

My bad, actually Africa’s doing just fine

from Duff Does Africa, 8/21/08

In today’s New York Times, Roger Cohen bubbles over with optimism about Africa’s current situation and prospects. Apparently Cohen just came back from Ghana, one of a small handful of African nations with relatively decent governments, and he’s extrapolated Ghana’s modest success onto the rest of the continent.

Unfortunately, Cohen’s rosy view of Africa’s current state is deluded. “Vodaphone had bought a majority stake in Ghana Telecom for $900 million…and I’d heard much about 6 percent annual growth, spreading broadband, and new high-end cacao ventures,” Cohen reports. “I don’t think that picture is exceptional these days for Africa, where growth averaged close to 6 percent last year.” What Cohen fails to take into account is that a lot of that 6% growth is fueled by opportunistic Chinese and Russian companies who strip mine and destroy the local environment, or companies like Firestone, which has been operating a virtual slave labor camp in Liberia. Moreover, no matter where the cash flow comes from, the amount that touches Africa’s poorest citizens amounts to less than a trickle. Most of Africa’s pseudo-democracies still operate on old patronage networks, in which profits go to friends and political networks, not roads and schools.

Continue reading