Africa needs freer markets and fewer tyrants

(Above all, Africans need the rule of law and secure property rights)

Centralised state rule – incompetent at best – marked by corruption and sustained by aid, are the shackles that keep Africans poor. The only way to give food security to 200 million sub-Saharan Africans is to give them the tools, not to rely on yet more aid and government mismanagement, says Franklin Cudjoe, director of Imani, a policy think tank in Ghana.

Famine in Niger is no surprise – desert wastes, locusts and decades of Marxist rule keep it second-to-last on the world poverty list. Famine in the fertile climes of southern and eastern Africa, however, seems more shocking, says Cudjoe. The common thread among these countries is their economic profile:

  • Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho all lack economic freedom and property rights; all have economies mismanaged by the state and all depend on aid.

  • They all have a history of utopian schemes that failed to produce everlasting manna; state farms, marketing boards, land redistribution, price controls and huge regional tariffs left few incentives or opportunities for subsistence farmers to expand.

    Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, the United Nation's Chief Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals, believes Africa needs more cash. His "Green Revolution" would spend about $50 per villager to improve agricultural infrastructure, soil nutrients, water quality and seeds resistant to harsh climates and insects.

    These, however, are precisely the benefits that come from property rights, which also inspire the motivation to invest in, improve and preserve the land – motivation that does not come from aid, central control and state serfdom, says Cudjoe.

    As a condition of aid, African leaders must be forced to reduce economic intervention, free financial markets, remove bureaucratic obstacles, establish property rights and enforce contract law, says Cudjoe.

    Source: Franklin Cudjoe, The Terms of Trade: Africa Needs Freer Markets - and Fewer Tyrants, Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2005.

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    For more on International:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 3 January 2006
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