Once a food-exporting country, Zimbabwe stands on the brink of starvation. Just recently, President Robert Mugabe declared that he's going to nationalize all the farmland. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the consequence will be to exacerbate Zimbabwe's food problems. Sierra Leone, rich in minerals, especially diamonds, with highly fertile land and home to the best port site in West Africa, has declined into a condition of utter despair. It's a similar story in nearly all of south-of-Sahara Africa. Its people are generally worse off now than they were during colonialism both in terms of standard of living and human-rights protections.
John Blundell says that the institutions Westerners take for granted are entirely absent in most of Africa. Africans are not incompetent; they're just like us. Without the rule of law, private property rights, an independent judiciary, limited government and an infrastructure for basic transportation, water, electricity and communication, we'd also be a diseased, broken and starving people.
What can the West do to help? The worst thing is more foreign aid. For the most part, foreign aid is government to government, and as such, it provides the financial resources that allow Africa's corrupt regimes to buy military equipment, pay off cronies and continue to oppress their people. It also provides resources for the leaders to set up "retirement" accounts in Swiss banks. Even so-called humanitarian aid in the form of food is often diverted. Blundell reports that Mugabe's thugs rip labels off of wheat and corn shipments from the United States and Europe and re-label them as benevolence from the dictator.
Most of what Africa needs the West cannot give, and that's the rule of law, private property rights, an independent judiciary and limited government. The one important way we can help is to lower our trade barriers.