Africa, the Awful Continent

Posted on Tue 01/18/2011 by


By Alan Caruba

As long as I can remember, for seventy-plus years I have seen photos of sick and starving African children. Now that Africa is home to seventy percent of the world’s cases of AIDS that image applies as well to too many of its adult population. As far as I can tell, it is an awful continent.

That is a vast generalization, of course, but I suspect that a lot of Africans would agree. In 2005, Martin Meredith’s book, “The Fate of Africa”, was published. Its subtitle was “From the hopes of freedom to the heart of despair: A history of 50 years of independence.” It is as definitive as any book I have read about Africa and it is a horror story.

“Since independence,” Meredith wrote, “Africa has received more foreign aid than any other region of the world. More than $300 billion of Western aid has been sunk into Africa, but with little discernible result. Aid fatigue has become a permanent condition.”

I was reminded of this while reading a briefing paper by Greg Mills, the director of the Brenthurst Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa. Titled “Why is Africa Poor”, it was published by the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty & Prosperity.

While America and Europe struggle with economic problems of their own making, the general poverty of Africa defies the imagination. “Africa is not poor because its people do not work hard,” says Mills, “but because their productivity is too low. African states have resisted western innovations of large-scale farming, so too many Africans survive on subsistence agriculture.

“Nor is Africa poor because of it lacks natural resources,” says Mills. “Compared with Asia, it is a treasure-trove of natural resources from agricultural land and precious metals to wildlife and hydropower. Yet, with few exceptions (Botswana is one), those resources have been used only to enrich elites, spread corrupt practices, and divert development energy and focus.”

It is not a stretch to say that the best thing that happened to Africa was colonialization. It brought measure of development that Africans would never have achieved on their own. Following the end of World War II, the European colonial powers were confronted with indigenous demands for independence and fairly swiftly, if not happily, they abandoned their control of much of the continent from the Maghreb in the Northern tier to South Africa at the tip.

“In a half century of independence, Africa has not realized its potential,” says Mills, warning that Africa’s youth, “a huge source of talent” is widely regarded “as a destabilizing force because it is largely unemployed and uneducated. This is not only a threat to Africa’s security. By 2025, one in four young people worldwide will be from sub-Saharan Africa.”

Africa reeks of corruption by a few, oppression of the many, poverty, and the potential for enormous conflict because its so-called leaders are a horrid bunch of dictators and thieves. Few have shown any interest in improving the lives of those in their nations.

“African leaders have successfully managed, with the help of donors, to externalize their problems, making them the responsibility and fault of others,” says Mills. This condition is the result of “a relative lack of democracy (or to single-party dominance) in Africa.” In other words, socialism.

Not mentioned in his analysis is the role of Islam in much of Africa, a religion devoted to the complete submission of Muslims and resistance to anything that passes for modern governance or advancement. Another factor not discussed is tribalism. It was the cause of a terrible Rwandan genocide.

For this reason, more than a half century after independence arrived, “Getting to Africa is difficult. Moving around Africa is similarly onerous. It would take no donor money to keep borders open around the clock” notes Mills.

One thing is certain. All the money donated to African nations is largely stolen by its elites and the provision of aid for education and health exists only when donor nations and non-governmental organizations exercise close control over it.

The rot that exists in Africa in human terms, in the failure to modernize, in the vile corruption of a few, will persist and, fifty years hence, there will likely be more books and briefing papers that reflect those being written today.

© Alan Caruba, 2011   Alan Caruba blogs daily at Warning Signs . An author, business and science writer, he is the founder of National Anxiety Center.