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Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Easterly checks the Vanity Fair Brigade....

Fresh from the attack on the ideology of development led by the IMF, World Bank et al, Easterly has now checked the celebrities who have turned the issue of Africa into a circus, and deliberately under play the progress the continent is making so they can remain in the lime light. Read more here:

Today, as I sip my Rwandan gourmet coffee and wear my Nigerian shirt here in New York, and as European men eat fresh Ghanaian pineapple for breakfast and bring Kenyan flowers home to their wives, I wonder what it will take for Western consumers to learn even more about the products of self-sufficient, hardworking, dignified Africans. Perhaps they should spend less time consuming Africa disaster stereotypes from television and Vanity Fair.

I suspect Paul Collier may be next. I have just finished reading Paul Collier's book the Bottom Billion where he concludes with a rather cheap stab at Easterly "Easterly is right to mock the delusions of the aid lobby. But just as Sachs exaggerates the pay off to aid, Easterly exaggerates the downside and again neglects the scope of other policies. We are not as impotent and ignorant as Easterly seems to think".

Aside from that I recommend the Collier book as it has some interesting new insights on what keeps countries from developed. Most relevant to Zambia [not mentioned in the book] is the discussion on the landlocked trap : being landlocked and surrounded by poor unstable neighbours may be what has held us back from making progress. I met Collier at a conference three years ago when he lectured on the
Challenge of Reducing the Global Incidence of Civil War. A nice chap overall - clearly well travelled. Although I suspect the Harare Government will disagree with me after reading his new book - among other things, he advocates military intervention to rescue failing states, after having estimated that costs of a civil war is $64bn while a cheap intervention like the British carried out in Sierra Leone is considerably cheap to mount. The numbers look very persuasive.


  1. I'm about to enter university and one area I discussed with the course coordinator for possible dissertation is how Africa is portrayed in western media as a hopeless case and a result, people in the west think there is no running water, everyone lives in mud and stick houses, etc. Anyway, in journalese (media lingo), they say "if it smells, it sells". Negative reportage of Africa sells the Sun, the Mirror, the Daily Mail, name it.
    Similarly, Bono and Geldof market themselves under the banner of bettering the lives of Africans, but is it the case?

  2. Sounds interesting!
    What field is that? From the sound of the dissertation, it could be anything from journalism to international politics :) You are not planning to stand in 2011 are you? lol!

    Its all over the place.
    Africa's poverty is actually big business for everyone.

    Aid agencies - most of them mean well but there are a couple than needs to paint a bad picture on their just to get funding. Aid agencies must balance books just like everyone and clearly saying Zambia has grown at 6% sounds bad compared to say HIV has got worse. Also the people within those organisations have careers - and need to sound the "company policy" to get to the top.

    Celebrities - well, their just celebrities. I don't even know whether they really understand the issues. What makes me laugh is when I see them become "goodwill ambassadors". How can you be a good will ambassador on Children when you have never even read a single paper on what is holding back child development in remote parts of the world...or better yet new methods of reducing child development.

    Governments - now the real job I think is being done by the likes of DfID, SIDA and so forth....these guys dont pretend to be there because of charity. They are just doing their job as Government departments....and naturally really paint a more accurate picture. The trouble is that they have few levers to deliver and occassionally have to pander to the media and pressure of aid agencies in telling their story of what is happening...

  3. Let's face it, for every £1 that is donated by an innocent and well-meaning Briton supposedly to provide water in a remote village in Africa, 80 percent ends up at the head offices in London, Oxford and similar cities housing the headquarters of these international NGOs to feed the lifestyles of the officials in those towns.


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