Saturday, June 4, 2011

The American Spectator : Africa in the Eye of the Beholder

Africa's potential economic development is a staple of commentary in publications on international affairs. What's important about this fact is that it's been this way for years, nay decades. It seems that Africa -- by which is meant sub-Saharan Africa -- is always filled with potential. Unfortunately there is very little analysis showing that potential realized.

There seems to be a very effective effort to place the ultimate blame for Africa's inability to progress in economic and political terms on what William Wallis, the experienced Financial Times editor on African affairs, refers to as "the relative failure of Europe's mission during colonial times, and more recently through development aid, to introduce rules-based systems."

In stating this, Wallis has sought to explain why some observers believe that China and industrial powers of the developing world, such as Brazil and India, are more capable of dealing with Africa's needs and desires. One only can surmise that the rough and tumble of African business life, and ultimately its entire economic status, is more suitable to the less complicated and purportedly less sophisticated commercial controls and methodology of these developing industrial countries.

In a certain sense this might be a correct assumption. The Americans, for example, have a host of federal laws (including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) that prevent U.S. firms from making the kind of corporate/government commitment that allows host country officials and local politicians to participate in or benefit from the projects under consideration. E.U. nations are now similarly constrained, though former colonial powers among them most often have had local companies operating under less restrictive charters and laws for many decades.

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