A reader writes, in re: Myth vs. Fact: Is Africa the Lost
Continent? “What about all the aid that gets appropriated by corrupt
governments in Africa instead of used for its original intent?”
Boy, I’m so glad you asked. One of the points Jeffrey Sachs made, which I did not recount, is
that the mismanagement of funds through corruption and poor governance is N0T TRUE —
repeat NOT TRUE — for many of Africa’s poorest nations. It’s a convenient myth for those who’d
rather not invest in African development, he says.
Sach doesn’t deny that countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo are horrors of
corruption. But those places are not candidates for development aid. A prerequisite for investment
is the guarantee that results are measurable in a monitored program that can be independently
audited. The U.S. government gives considerable emergency aid to countries in Africa, but very
little to development aid. And most people confuse the two. They’re different issues.
The reader also asks:
If you want to discuss humanitarian aid vs. defense spending, how much do
those enlightened leaders of Europe, who spend far less on defense, give to Africa? I am talking
about the same Euro-leaders who really want to help out in Africa and elsewhere, but haven’t
bought enough air- or sealift to get to Africa.
Boy, I’m glad he asked that question, too. The Europeans have agreed to give a miniscule
percentage of their Gross National Products recommended by the U.N. Millenium Project, and so has the United States.
The project recommends that
“high-income countries should increase official development assistance from 0.25 percent of
donor GNP in 2003 to around 0.44 percent in 2006 and 0.54 percent in 2015” to support the Millennium Development Goals, particularly for qualified
low-income countries, and that “each donor should reach 0.7 percent no later than 2015” when
other “development assistance priorities” are included.
Because each of the European GDPs are so much smaller than that of the U.S., their
contributions naturally will be smaller. Meantime, the Europeans have been meeting their
obligations, Sachs says, and so far the U.S. has not.
Further, their interest payments per capita on the forgiven African debt will be
much greater than those of the U.S. Over the next decade, the interest will cost the U.S. $120
million a year, Britain $75 million, Germany, France, Japan and Italy roughly $75 million each,
and Canada $45 million. That means Britain, France and Italy (with populations of 51 million, 60
million and 58 million, respectively) will be paying more than $1 per capita, as will Canada (pop.
33 million). Germany (pop. 82 million) will be paying slightly less than $1 per head, and Japan
(pop. 127 million) more than 50 cents. The U.S. (pop. 296 million) will be paying less than 50
cents, as I wrote too generously. It actually comes to about 36 cents per capita.
This same reader complains:
You are so biased in your writing, why not make a name for yourself by
breaking away from most of the pack of opinion writers and actually compile some facts from
both sides of the argument and possibly educate and inform the few of us who might bother
clicking on your articles [rather] than offering up the same old half-baked
What can I say except … how about reading the U.N. Millenium Declaration and finding out exactly
what the current U.S. regime is so reluctant to support, after which your apology will be