Poverty Facts

The truth about Africa

Probably the best chapter in Jeffrey Sachs’ book, tadalafil The End of Poverty, order is Chapter 16: Myths and Magic Bullets describing the myths which perpetuate our apathy towards aid to Africa. Here’s his intro:

“Everything up to this point [in the book] is fine and good, treatment except for one matter: it ignores the human factor. Take the case of Africa. Africa needs around $30 billion per year in aid in order to escape from poverty. But if we actually gave that aid, where would it go? Right down the drain if the past is any guide. Sad to say, Africa’s education levels are so low that even programs that work elsewhere would fail in Africa. Africa is corrupt and riddled with authoritarianism. It lacks modern values and the institutions of a free market economy needed to achieve success. In fact, Africa’s morals are so broken down that it is no surprise AIDS has run out of control. And here is the bleakest truth: Suppose that our aid saved Africa’s children. What then? There would be a population explosion, and a lot more hungry adults. We would have solved nothing.”

“If your head was just nodding yes, please read this chapter with special care. The paragraph above repeats conventional rich-world wisdom about Africa, and to a lesser extent, other poor regions. While common, these assertions are incorrect. Yet they have been repeatedly publicly for so long, or whispered in private, that they have become accepted as truth by the broad public as well as much of the development community, particularly by people who have never worked in Africa.” (p. 309, bold is mine)

Sachs goes on to challenge each of these assertions with a fair-minded and fact-based response. He proposes the truth as follows:

  • Money spent in Africa is not all “down the drain”
  • Well-designed aid programs are not destined to fail in Africa
  • Corruption is not the main culprit/enemy of aid effectiveness
  • Lack of full democracy does not necessarily prevent aid from being effective (think: China)
  • Africa doesn’t have core values that are much different than the rest of the world
  • Fully free markets are not the panacea for poverty elimination
  • Mature property rights and laws are not a pre-requisite for economic development (in South America, it has been documented that property rights improvements only became a priority after wealth had increased)
  • Africa’s sexual morals are not statistically that much different than other regions
  • Reducing poverty reduces population growth through accompanying lower fertility rates
  • A “rising tide” of economic development doesn’t automatically reach all citizens
  • Unregulated “survival of the fittest” has not been the history of successful economic development

I think this chapter is worth the price of the book for those who want to be able to make decisions based on the facts.

2 thoughts on “The truth about Africa

  1. (h) Africa’s sexual morals are not that much different than other regionsWRONG. In many parts of Africa part of hospitality is allowing your guests to sleep with your wife. Is that normal for the Western world, or the Muslim world, no it is not. I agree with many of your points but on this one it is wrong.


  2. Timothy,I am interested in learning more specifics about the sexual morals assertation you made. I don’t have any first hand knowledge about this one way or the other. Frankly, Sachs doesn’t provide much data to backup his assertions other than one survey which was done which found that the average # of sexual partners of people in a Latin American country were not different than those for an African country. He just couldn’t find any data which demonstrated statistically that Africans were more permiscuous even though a thinking person might wonder what else could account for the fast spread of HIV/AIDS.Can you please provide more specifics about which countries/cultures this occurs in and how widespread it is?


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