Africa's Turn

Nobody or nothing has “arrived” as long as people feel social or moral obligations to show respect. True respect comes only when there is something truly to be respected. Africa is rapidly moving into this category. Businesses and governments are becoming interested in Africa. When informed people say it is Africa’s time, they are no longer just preaching PC platitudes.

Let’s start by acknowleging the cold truth. Africa has a long way to go. Most African countries had the misfortune of winning their independence in an age when state control was the intellectual fashion. From well meaning dreamers like Julius Nyerere to monstrous psychopaths like Idi Amin, virtually all African leaders had faith in the power of the state. Even today, democracy and the rule of law are not embraced enthusiastically in many places, and Africa has the distinction of being the only continent on the planet that has become worse off over the past generation. But change is coming and it is being noticed.

Business schools are starting to take African markets seriously. President Bush has directed the military develop a new command AFRICOM to strengthen our security cooperation with the nations of the continent. Chinese investments in Africa are popping up like mushrooms after a soaking rain, and the Chinese government is actively encouraging it. American investment is also growing.

Tropical diseases have long held back African development. President Bush recently announced a anti malaria initiative on top of his fight against AIDS, the other scourge of the continent.

Trade is growing, as is respect for the free market. Nigeria, the continent's most populous country, will soon hold elections and let’s not forget good news from even very poor places like Mali.

As I wrote, there is still a long way to go, but Africa may have reached the take off point. In a decade, you may read the kind of success stories about Africa that we regularly hear about China and India. By then everyone will say it was inevitable.

Posted by Jack at February 8, 2007 5:58 PM
Comment #207222

That’s all fine and dandy, but this nation has serious problems of its own, that are being ignored, and at the rate we’re goin’ , we might be trading places with Africa before long.

Posted by: d.a.n at February 8, 2007 7:09 PM
Comment #207232

Why should we spend money on Africa’s problems when we can’t even take care of our own?
And if they’re starting to do so good over there why can’t they spend there own money to solve their problems?
Does this all of a sudden interest in Africa’s problems that we’ve ignored all my life have something to do American companies wanting to send more of our jobs overseas?


and at the rate we’re goin’ , we might be trading places with Africa before long.

Sad but true. Until we wake up and force our employee’s to solve the problems we have I don’t hold much hope for the future of this country.
And one thing is for sure. We can’t afford to spend our money on other peoples problems right now.
If our politicians were solving the problems we have here in this country, and we had the money left to do it with, which we most likely would, I’d have no problem with helping them out some. Even then I’d be expecting them to be spending more of their money than ours.

Posted by: Ron Brown at February 8, 2007 8:02 PM
Comment #207241

Jack: The American taxpayers are already building the infrastructure for our corporations in Africa, What more do you want us to do?

Posted by: jlw at February 8, 2007 8:45 PM
Comment #207245

I do not believe in wasting money on charity to those who will not help themselves. But when you help others help themselves, you also help yourself. It is a win/win. Life is not a zero sum game.

Poverty creates all sorts of negative things that hurt the world. Poor countries treat their and our) environment poorly. They create unstable conditions where terrorist can hide. If nothing else, poor countries are bad markets for our products and bad trading partners.

Rich countries are the ones where we benefit. Our firms make much more money off Scandinavia than they do off Africa, despite the differences in size and population. All of Africa south of the Sahara has a GDP the size of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It uses less fertilizer than Bangladesh, which is not a big user BTW. The potential is fantastic. Imagine this continent being productive up to its potential. How much better for everybody.

It is not up to us. We will not be building all the infrastructure or suring all the disease. But we should do what we can do.

Posted by: Jack at February 8, 2007 9:14 PM
Comment #207246

Jack, you are missing out on the story behind all this new interest in Africa. For about 30 months now, China has been securing contracts with African companies and governments, even offering to build a presidential palace in return for some favored status.

That is why our American government and businesses are turning to Africa. There is a competitor who won’t leave much for America there if we don’t jump in to compete now in securing the markets and relationships with government leaders.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 8, 2007 9:21 PM
Comment #207250

I agree David. That is one reason. However, there would not be profit seeking investment if things were not getting better.

The Chinese were there before. They built football stadiums and big projects. The competition among ideologies allowed kleptocracies to flourish. That the Chinese are now motivated by profit is a step up. But Chinese firms are likely to be more exploitive and less interested in democracy. The Chinese behavior in Darfur is not encouraging.

Posted by: Jack at February 8, 2007 9:29 PM
Comment #207252

We are trying to prevent a kleptrocracy right here in America and we are losing badly.

So, Africa will be the next great bastion of corporate wealth with dirt for wages no workers rights and no polution standards, don’t count on it. I think the days of exploitation are about over.

Speaking of dirt, that is where Africas wealth is. It is probably the best resource on Earth for precious metals and I am not talking gold and platinum.

Posted by: jlw at February 8, 2007 10:15 PM
Comment #207254


Yes, you are right that the age of exploitation is coming to an end. The free market is coming.

Posted by: Jack at February 8, 2007 10:31 PM
Comment #207258

Ha,Ha. Thats right .After a century under the boot of European colonialism if they had just embraced Reagonomics everything would have been fine.You are consistent anyway.

Posted by: BillS at February 8, 2007 11:14 PM
Comment #207268

Good article Jack. I was happy to see that the Pentagon finally broke Africa out of CentCom. Africa’s where al-Qaeda will end up if Bush ever quits screwing around and chases them out of Pakistan. AfriCom’s gonna have a lot of work to do.

And of course some yo-yo’s going to insist that America can only be secure if Africa becomes a continent of democracies. Hopefully we’ll send more troops to Sudan or Somalia or Eritrea than we did to Iraq…

Posted by: American Pundit at February 9, 2007 1:24 AM
Comment #207281


Yes. If they had embraced the free market (or which Reaganonmics is merely one variation) they would have been much better off.

Other countries that were oppressed colonies, such as S. Korea, Taiwan, Singapore have done very well. Those African countries that have followed a more free market road, such as Botswana or Mali have done relatively better.

One of the most pernicious legacies of colonialism was the concept that the state did the planning. Colonial minds were colonized by the silly lefty looney ideas of the leading Euro intellectuals of the 1960s. Bad all around.


I wonder where they will put the headquarters.

Democracy is a good thing. Liberty is probalby a more useful and achievable goal in the short term for many of the countries there.

Your second paragraph implies you support the troop surge to Iraq.

Posted by: Jack at February 9, 2007 8:57 AM
Comment #207335

Jack said: “However, there would not be profit seeking investment if things were not getting better.”

But then, there is short demand for profit return on investment (the American model) and then there is the decades long investments of slow but steady incremental trust building that secures one’s role as partner (the Chinese model).

It is hard to see which will produce the greatest competitive advantage at this point. One thing for sure, the Chinese have potentially the greatest economic staying power for investment and ability to defer returns on investment as a competitive advantage.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 9, 2007 1:48 PM
Comment #207370


China has done well in the last couple of years. But the way they treat their workers, environment and competitors is well below U.S. standards. China makes progess by being a low cost producer and it is a low cost producer to some extent because of the things above. They have to do this at their stage of development. Praise them for their progress, but do not go too far. China wants to become more like us. We should not want to become more like China.

American firms are still among the most competitive in the world. We do all right in a fair competition.

Posted by: Jack at February 9, 2007 3:25 PM
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