Monday, March 20, 2006

Africa - Shackled Continent

Almost finished reading 'Shackled Continent', by former Economist Africa correspondent Robert Guest. It's a lively, readable but depressing account of the state of sub-Saharan Africa. The usual litany of war, disease, poverty and corruption are detailed throughout the book. There are vivid accounts from different countries, from South Africa to Cameroon to Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

Guest doesn't take the easy way out and pin the blame squarely on rapacious Western coporates and governments. Nor does he paint Africa as a continent full of victims waiting to be rescued from poverty by enlightened Westerners. What he does make clear is that Africa's curse is a surfeit of statism. The African peoples have been saddled with governments that were as bad, and often much worse, than the colonial powers that were there before. Corruption, rampant bureaucracies run as personal fiefdoms, tribalism encouraged by venal politicians, and endless wars have kept Africa poor, sick and barely limping along.

As an antidote to the guilt-ridden breast-beating of many Western liberals, the book makes a clear case that development and freedom go hand in hand. And, just as importantly, freedom means economic as well as political freedom. Without the freedom to trade, to work and to kick out corrupt regimes, Africas peaoples are doomed to life support in perpetuity.

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