Saturday, September 29, 2012

“Why Africa is Poor” – some quotes

beggingafricaI have started reading Greg Mills’ book, “Why Africa is Poor: and what Africans can do about it.” It is a very insightful book and I would like to give you some quotes from the book.

“The way in which the world has preferred to deal with Africa’s poverty and development challenges has been with increased volumes of aid. As will be seen [in this book], no country has developed solely through aid. Most of the donors themselves did not develop in this way. To the contrary: aid can have a rash of unintended and negative consequences which make development less, not more, likely. ... Not only was aid not working; aid was doing harm across the continent and further afield.” (p7,8)

“Yet no amount of money was going to ‘fix’ African states if their leaders continued to make wrong development choices. Very few Africans (or other recipients) will admit to making big mistakes. This might be because of Africa’s turbulent and painful colonial history, when the sort of development plans attempted by colonial powers were really little different in practical (as opposed to political) terms to those tried today. As Easterly observed in his development tour de force, The White Man’s Burden, while there was a shift in language from ‘uncivilised’ to ‘underdeveloped’ and ‘savage peoples’ to the ‘Third World’ as part of a ‘genuine change of heart away from racism and towards respect for equality ... a paternalistic and coercive strain survived’. As a result, ‘Soon was born the development expert, the heir to the missionary and the colonial officer.’” (p9-10)

“Again: the primary reason why Africa’s people are poor is because their leaders make this choice.” (p12)

“Africa’s poverty has not been because the necessary development and technical expertise is unavailable. It can be bought on the international market, just as many in Asia have chosen to do. It could even have been accessed for free via donors. Africa has, however, been highly possessive about the direction and control of its development, partly due to an innately sceptical view of outsiders, but also because it has been able to get away with acting in tis way. ... And Africa’s people are poverty stricken not because the private sector does not exist or was unwilling to work in sometimes difficult settings. These peoplegregmills and companies do exist, though the private sector is often not ‘private’ at all, but rather an elite-linked system of rent seeking. Even where there is a degree of independence, government attitudes towards private businesses range from suspicion to outright hostility.” (p13)

“[P]erhaps most importantly, bad choices have been made because better choices in the broad public interest were in very many cases not in the leaders’ personal and often financial self-interest.” (p16)

“Development is dependent on improving productivity. This is usually the result of increases in the volume of, or better combining, capital, labour and technology. A lack of investment in people as well as equipment and technology can lead to an underutilisation of the labour potential in the world.” (p35)

Dr. Greg Mills is the director of The Brenthurst Foundation. You can learn more about him here, and about the Foundation here.

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