Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

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Somali pirates hijack ship with American crew

April 8, 2009

A few grafs:

Somali pirates are trained fighters who frequently dress in military fatigues and use speedboats equipped with satellite phones and GPS equipment. They are typically armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank rocket launchers and various types of grenades. Far out to sea, their speedboats operate from larger mother ships.

Most hijackings end with million-dollar payouts. Piracy is considered the biggest moneymaker in Somalia, a country that has had no stable government for decades. Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the London-based think-tank Chatham House, said pirates took up to $80 million in ransoms last year.

The whole piece.

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Q&A: Dambisa Moyo on aid damaging Africa

April 7, 2009

Two weeks ago, I posted on an article in The Wall Street Journal about the crippling effects of aid to Africa. I came across an interview of the author of that column, Dambisa Moyo, who just released a book on the subject: Dead Aid:Why Aid is not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa.

Here’s Moyo in an exchange on celebrity aid:

Guernica: In your book, you discuss the different eras of aid. The money started flowing in the post-war years to keep African countries friendly to the U.S. You go on to describe the 2000s as the decade of “Glamour Aid,” and you’re critical of Bono and Bob Geldoff, in particular. Do you feel these celebrities who are beating the drum for increased aid—and in doing so, drawing attention to themselves as well as the cause—are acting out of paternalism and perhaps egoism rather than true altruism?

Dambisa Moyo: First of all, I talk very little about the celebrities [in Dead Aid]. To focus on them is to miss the point. There are three things I want to say about celebrities and “Glamour Aid.” First, I don’t think they’re right. I may have been more sympathetic if they were pushing an agenda for more trade or more foreign direct investment, but the fact that they’re pushing for an additional fifty billion dollars [in aid] illustrates to me that they don’t understand economics and perhaps do not add value to the debate. It certainly worries me that they’re getting more airtime than they should. The second point is that in the aid model, you disenfranchise Africans because the governments are not held accountable. The fact that there was a vacuum big enough for these celebrities to step in and speak, ostensibly, on behalf of the African continent is worrying. Africans stand in the hot African sun to elect their leaders, not celebrities.

Here’s the whole interview in Guernica.

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How crippling is foreign aid to Africa?

March 23, 2009

In last week’s Wall Street Journal, there’s a provoking essay by Dambisa Moyo, a former Goldman Sachs economist, on whether aid to sub-Saharan countries is productive in the long run. At first the piece’s assertion seems counterintuitive, but the argument—that aid enables autocratic regimes to maintain their hold on power and provides little incentive for economic initiative—isn’t entirely new.

One thing about the article I found lacking was the absence of details on the extent to which aid is tied to loans, or even what percentage of aid is in fact not aid at all, but loans under a different name. Moyo takes a stab at it with this:

Whatever its strengths and weaknesses, such charity-based aid is relatively small beer when compared to the sea of money that floods Africa each year in government-to-government aid or aid from large development institutions such as the World Bank.

Over the past 60 years at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Yet real per-capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population — over 350 million people — live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades.

Even after the very aggressive debt-relief campaigns in the 1990s, African countries still pay close to $20 billion in debt repayments per annum, a stark reminder that aid is not free. In order to keep the system going, debt is repaid at the expense of African education and health care. Well-meaning calls to cancel debt mean little when the cancellation is met with the fresh infusion of aid, and the vicious cycle starts up once again.

It would be intellectually lazy to assess Moyo’s ideas with a shoot-the-messenger approach. Some governmental improvements Moyo touts as integral to reform are issuing bonds, participating more actively in capital markets, and attracting foreign investment by altering tax structures and streamlining bureaucracy.  

Whether this is the most effective route to weaning African governments off their dependence on aid is debatable, but doesn’t detract from the overall argument that by perpetuating never-ending monetary infusions, Western governments, NGOs, and their advocates become complicit in limiting the potential of much of sub-Saharan Africa and its peoples.

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Sunday items

March 22, 2009

Two things on Israel and Gaza: First from The New York Times, a soldier’s account of the military’s attitude toward killing civilians, and, from The Guardian, a follow-up piece on a group that’s interviewed a number of Israeli soldiers.

A piece on The Democratic Republic of Congo and a photography exhibit on the women of Congo.

For those of you who missed it, here’s AP on Iran’s response to Obama’s holiday message.

And finally a Wall Street Journal piece on the man who could take Karzai’s place in Afghanistan.