Walter E. Williams

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, along with other G-8 leaders, have called for the doubling of foreign aid to African nations by 2010. The idea that foreign aid is a route out of poverty and political instability is not only bankrupted but a cruel and evil hoax as well.

Nearly every sub-Saharan African nation is poorer now than when they became independent during the '60s and '70s. Since that time, food production has fallen by roughly 20 percent. Since 1975, per capita GDP has fallen at a rate of half of one percent annually. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo estimated, "Corrupt African leaders have stolen at least $140 billion from their people in the [four] decades since independence." The call for more aid by George Bush, Tony Blair and other G-8 leaders will produce nothing but more of the same.

Zimbabwe provides an excellent example of why foreign aid, as a way out of poverty, is a fool's errand. Salem University, Winston-Salem, N.C., professor Craig Richardson explores this further in "Learning from Failure: Property Rights, Land Reforms, and the Hidden Architecture of Capitalism," a paper written for the American Enterprise Institute's Development Policy Outlook Series (2006). Not that long ago, Zimbabwe was one of the more prosperous African countries. Professor Richardson writes, "Few countries have failed as spectacularly, or as tragically, as Zimbabwe has over the past half decade. Zimbabwe has transformed from one of Africa's rare success stories into one of its worst economic and humanitarian disasters." It has the world's highest rate of inflation, currently over 1,000 percent. To put this into perspective, in 1995, one U.S. dollar exchanged for eight Zimbabwe dollars; today, one U.S. dollar exchanges for 100,000 Zimbabwe dollars. Unemployment hovers around 80 percent. Its financial institutions are collapsing. The specter of mass starvation hangs over a country that once exported food.

What's the cause? President Robert Mugabe blames domestic and foreign enemies, particularly England and the United States for trying to bring about his downfall. Of course, according to Mugabe, and some of the world's academic elite, there's that old standby excuse, the legacy of colonialism and multi-national firms exploiting the Third World. The drought is used to "explain" the precipitous drop in agricultural output. Then there's AIDS.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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