Category Archives: Africa

Help Spread Liberty in Africa

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A friend of mine recently exposed me to what I now find to be a wonderful group: Africa Youth Peace Call. From their website:

We are dedicated to the study and advancement of classical liberalism (libertarianism) in Africa. We try to change peoples’ ideas, opinions, and mode of thinking by research, seminars and publications. AYPC wants to become the leading libertarian organisation in freedom education of young people in Africa.

They conduct a variety of programs that you can see here. You can also donate to their cause here.

It is my contention that any help you can provide them with will benefit Africa far better than any billion spent on foreign aid ever has. Recently, I finished an older, but still relevant book called, “The Revolution in Development Economics,” that was given to me at the Northwest Regional Students for Liberty conference. I think the “revolution” can be summarized as follows:

The field of development economics didn’t really pick up until after World War II, when a bunch of countries that didn’t previously exist now did. Many economists, even Nobel Prize-winning ones such as Paul Samuelson, were confused as to how an economy grows (it is quite astounding that Samuelson believed that third world countries could not lift themselves out of poverty because they produced so little and therefore couldn’t save anything to invest in capital production. But if that’s the case, how could any country have become rich? The ancestors of the wealthiest people at one time had the same amount of capital as third world countries do and yet somehow they were able to save enough to invest in capital production). Many of these economists prescribed a large dose of government planning, including tariffs, import substitution (where favors are given to domestic industry to produce goods that foreign producers clearly have a comparative advantage), forced industrialization, capital controls, and the like. None of this accomplished what it was meant to do. It wasn’t until the collapse of the Soviet Union that it became clear to most economists that central planning was inefficient. Today, most economists accept the idea that free trade leads to economic growth and well-defined property rights tend to lead to resources finding their way to their most highly valued uses (but, of course, not everyone is a full laissez faire-ist yet. Far from it).

Of the papers that were published in the book, one sticks with me in particular: Indigenous African Institutions and Economic Development by Emily Chamlee-Wright. In it she tells the story of women street vendors in Ghana, who established among themselves elaborate methods of mutual aid, including credit associations, mutual protection from police (since vending on the street is officially illegal), and running each other’s stands when one was sick (even direct competitors would do this for each other). The especially frustrating part of the story is how the city council seemed to do everything it could do disrupt the well-being of these women, including the city police taking their cut of these women’s small profits, making it nearly impossible for them to save enough money to lease a shop to store their wares and conduct business legally. But still, these women are able to coordinate their collective actions and oppose some of the worse measures planned by the city council, and seem to thrive considering the conditions under which they are put.

I highly recommend reading Chamlee-Wright’s paper; within it you’ll see why entrepreneurs in Africa could succeed if only they could conduct their business without the undue burden that government currently forces upon them. To further this end, I think giving support to Africa Youth Peace Call is laudatory. Below is a video showing one of their programs, an entrepreneurship camp.

Why the World Is Ignoring Congo War

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http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/27/opinion/congo-war-ignored-vava-tampa/?hpt=hp_c1

Though I disagree with some of the author’s conclusions in the above link (after seeing what has happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, the Philippines, Iran, Pakistan, etc., etc., etc., do you really want US policymakers to intervene in the Congo?), I think it is important to consider the question of “Why the World Is Ignoring Congo War”. Vava Tampa, the author and Congo native, offers the following possibilities:

Is it due to the geographical or cultural distance between London or Washington and Congo? Or are Western media just reluctant, if not uninterested, to cover it because no Western interests or ally is endangered by it?

Would the coverage the situation in Congo receives be the same if it was happening in Europe or if Congo spoke English rather than French?

What if Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or his disciples were implicated in funding murderous militia gangs in Congo? Or if the killing was between black Africans and Arabs? Or if minerals funding Congo’s killing and raping industries benefited the East more than the West?

Taking them in order: 1) No, it is not due to geographical or cultural distance. We need only look at all the other places that US and British powers have invaded and attempted to colonize to know that that can’t be the answer. 2) This is the most likely explanation. Western media’s reporting is highly in-line with what Western governments are doing and what their interests are. I’m sure the reader can think of numerous examples off the top of his or her head of places where the outright disregard of individual rights is rampant but only spoken of when Western governments have some kind of interaction with them (such as Myanmar when Hilary Clinton was negotiating with their military junta about trade barriers, North Korea whenever the US government decides to send sanctions or aid, or sub-Saharan Africa whenever the US government decides to respond to a video fad about a military dictator using child soldiers). 3) Obviously not! to the former part of the question. Why is this the case? Inevitably, some will point to the answer of racism but this is overly simplistic and not helpful, in addition to being wrong. If this were the situation in Europe, the US government would have a far greater interest. Poor people in sub-Saharan Africa can pose little challenge to US-led hegemony. The language spoken is irrelevant except to the extent that if it were English then it would be likely that English or American powers had colonized the Congo and would therefore have more of an interest. 4) Not sure that it would matter, in terms of media coverage, if Mugabe were involved. The US is currently funding rebels in Syria, some of them known to be al-Qaeada. It is also beyond dispute that third-world dictators receive funding from the US, hence the question. Should we really be surprised that it is used to abuse human rights? This should be obvious. It seems that major media outlets could really take the US government to task for this; I’m not entirely sure why they do not. (Though it is possibly the case that since most news reporting involves what government officials say that major outlets don’t want to jeopardize their access to them by embarrassing them.) 5) Again, I don’t think it’s about race but about the interests of the US government and its cronies. 6) We are getting somewhat closer to the answer with this question. I imagine if it were oil then this would be much bigger news (notice how the “humanitarian” war in Libya could have easily taken place in a number of other countries if the goal were really about “liberating” people? Is it just a coincidence that Libya has massive oil resources?).

Regardless to the answer of why the world is ignoring what is going on in the Congo, it is an absolute and utter tragedy. I want to thank the reader in joining me in refusing to ignore it. I would ask the faithful among us to pray that situation may take a turn for the better. I would also ask that those of us who do not profess such a faith would excuse us who do. Let us demonstrate to any and all who may notice that adherents of the non-aggression principle, whether they be theists or atheists, can live at peace among one another. This should be one of our great legacies to the world.