Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Out of Africa

Kim du Toit has a captivating, emotional letter from an African (born in the US) and a measured, respectful (and yet devastating) response from another African (who immigrated to the US).

Here's one sample:

There comes a time when all patience has been exhausted, all compassion used up, and all emotion blunted. Twenty years ago, pictures of starving African children spawned LiveAid. Today, there are no LiveAids, because we learned that most of the LiveAid supplies were deliberately withheld from starving people by various governments and warlords, as a political weapon. Waste of time, people say -- and they're right.

Famine in Africa is not a natural disaster, but a man-made one -- and that "man" is not Western European or American.

Let me finish with this: if anyone wants Africa to succeed as a viable entity, it's America. Not because we're especially humanitarian, although we are surely that.

No, we want Africa to succeed because if Africans become prosperous, we can sell them our stuff, improve their standard of living, and everyone makes a buck -- if the United States "exploits" a country, they get rich: ask Japan, or more recently, China. Believe me, if African factories could make T-shirts cheaper and better than the Chinese (and they could), Wal-Mart would be knocking on the door the next day. But when an American bank invests in a T-shirt factory in Africa, and most of the funds disappear into bribes and theft, why should they do it again? Or if the factory is built, becomes successful and profitable, and the ruling junta then nationalizes it -- why invest any more?

Now, as they say, go read the whole thing.


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