The big elephant in the room is African governments. Africa has been totally mismanaged and misruled in the past decade, but nobody wants to talk about that because of political correctness. Africa's begging bowl leaks horribly. As a matter of fact, the African Union itself estimated that every year corruption alone costs Africa $148 billion. If African leaders could cut that in half, they'll find more money than what Tony Blair is trying to raise for them. —George Ayittey on Jim Lehrer's NewsHour

Good stuff as usual from Emeka Okafor recently. In a few recent entries he has been talking about books with a variety of perspectives on African development.

In "Ayittey vs Sachs" he links to a debate between the two authors on PBS. Interesting stuff, but I'm left wondering whether Jeffrey Sachs is deluded, or in someone's pocket. He seems to be very optimistic about the probity of African governments in using Western aid. He wants Western governments to throw more money at Africa's problems.

It's not chauvinism to simply admit that most of Africa's problems can't be solved by throwing money at them. African has amply proved that it can be a bottomless pit of inefficiency and corruption, and I find it a bit patronizing for Sachs to go on as if only the hand of Western largesse will save Africa from itself. My attitude is a lot more along the lines of Ayittey, as I suppose is that of a lot of the professional class.

Sure, our problems of governance originate in actual colonialism and the essentially colonial manipulations of the cold war, but we're not going to do anything about it pointing fingers for the next 50 years. We have plenty of resources, including, most importantly, a huge and largely untapped pool of human resource. Our governments are a bit less arbitrary and kleptocratic than they used to be (though we have a long way to go), and I see a decent hope of Africa's bootstrapping itself successful region by successful region, and largely independently of foreign aid. As Ayittey says it will have to be the private sector leading the way.

Well, I mean, we have to find the origin of the problem. The origin of the problem in many African countries is that you've got state bureaucracies which are too bloated. I mean, if you take Ghana, for example, Ghana has 88 ministers and deputy ministers. Take Uganda; Uganda has 70 -- for a country of 25 million people, Uganda has 70 ministers. Uganda's budget is 40 percent aid-dependent. Ghana's budget is 50 percent aid-dependent.

Even if you cancel the debt, you don't eliminate that aid dependency. This is what I mean by getting to the fundamental root causes of the problem. Government, the state sectors in many African countries need to be slashed so that, you know, you put a greater deal of reliance on the private sector. The private sector is the engine of growth. Africa's economy needs to grow but they're not growing.

Right. Nigeria went from 4 governmental regions to 19 states and then eventually to (I think) 33 states. We've built a ludicrous bantustan of petty bureaucratic divisions. Private enterprise doesn't even know where to begin navigating the unpredictable waters of the numerous layers of government. Local knowledge isn't enough for enterprise in much of Africa. You need multiple levels of local influence.

Ayittey is also right when he talks about basic civil securities as a huge obstacle to development. Nothing underscores the danger of misplaced priorities better than the AU's attitude towards Mugabe's colossal stupidity while they try to turn the topic back towards further handouts from the West.

I'll have to get a copy of Africa Unchained, Ayittey's book. Ditto Preparing Africa for the Twenty-First Century, a book Okafor brought to my attention in a later entry.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia