In The End, Only Africa Can Help Africa

A lot of bloggers, myself included, were invited by John Hinderaker from Powerline &/or Joe Trippi to sit in on a conference call with Sir Bob Geldof, the guy running Live8, the latest incarnation of the hippy-dippy rock show for Africa.

Now to be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect much. Live8 seems like a waste of time to me especially since they’re not even raising money this time, I detest the G8 protesters whom Geldof is encouraging, and come on — it’s a bunch of rock stars playing a concert.

However, like seemingly every other conservative blogger who participated, I was at least impressed by Geldof.

He said nice things about the Bush administration, seemed appreciative of the help America is giving, thinks Robert Mugabe is a hopeless tyrant, talked a lot about accountability in Africa, seemed to have a fairly good grasp of the political landscape in America and Africa, and generally came off as exactly the opposite of the airy headed, sniping liberal, rock star you’d expect.

Still — while my opinion of Geldof improved considerably, I’m an enormous skeptic on Africa. Sure, we can always do something, feed hungry people, give a certain amount of aid, forgive debts, but — the reality is that the problems Africa has are on a scale that simply can’t be fixed by the West.

Just to name one issue, AIDs is completely out-of-control in Africa in a way that’s hardly even imaginable here in the West. According to some estimates, “20 percent or more of the adult population in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe are infected with AIDS”.

How do you even begin to help a country in that situation get on its feet? You don’t, they’re essentially doomed — at least for a generation — no matter what the West does or doesn’t do.

Furthermore, while Geldof seems to generally have the right idea about a lot of the things we should be doing in Africa, the whole “Let’s fix Africa” project didn’t just crank up this week. The West has pumped a trillion dollars plus into Africa over the last few decades and quite frankly, the results have been incredibly unimpressive.

So, does that mean we shouldn’t do anything to help Africa? No, but I think it’s a good idea to start with the premise that any charity we give to Africa is probably good money thrown after bad. Given that and the enormous sums we’re already spending to fight AIDs in Africa, I’d say that any new aid we give to Africa should be a “I’ll scratch your back and you scratch my back proposition.” That means we should concentrate the bulk of any further aid we send to countries with strategic resources (like oil), that are in strategic locations, and nations that are somehow in a position to do something useful for the United States.

Is that harsh? Yes. But, thinking that Africa can be turned into a prosperous continent if only the West cares enough is about as realistic as thinking that Communism could work if only the right people were in charge. In the end, Africa has to help Africa and the West can’t carry the whole continent on our back.

PS: Just to get a bit of added perspective on Africa, read “Let Africa Sink” by Kim du Toit — a South African now living in America who once “was arrested and put on trial for my opposition to apartheid, in 1972“. His pessimism — in my mind — is totally justified.

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