Thomas Sowell

 Ideologues love to think of African poverty as caused by "exploitation" on the part of Western countries. But, with a few notable exceptions, Africa has had little to be exploited. Even at the height of European imperialism, there was far less foreign trade or foreign investment in the whole vast continent of Africa than in a little country like Belgium or Switzerland.

 In more recent times, so-called "foreign aid" has left many monuments of futility in Africa, from rusting machinery and the ruins of many projects to cows sent from Europe that keeled over in the African heat.

 With all its handicaps, Africa used to feed itself and even export agricultural produce to Europe. In some of the more geographically favored parts of sub-Saharan Africa, iron was smelted thousands of years ago.

 During the first two decades after African nations gained their independence in the 1960s, one sub-Saharan nation that stood out with its economic prosperity and political stability amid economic disasters and social catastrophes among its neighbors was the Ivory Coast under President Felix Houphouet-Boigny.

 Yet neither the Ivory Coast nor its leader attracted nearly as much attention, much less adulation, as was showered on Julius Nyerere in Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, or other big-name African leaders who led their countries into ruin.

 The Ivory Coast in those days relied on markets instead of the kind of policies and rhetoric that the intelligentsia favored. When its policies changed, it became just another African basket case.

 Today, too many people in the West continue to see Africa as an outlet for the visions and policies of the left that have failed in the West and are even more certain to fail in Africa.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate