Thursday, July 10, 2003

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How Africa can help itself, cont'd

Yankee Blog, responding to my Botswana post of yesterday, points out the following:

[M]ore than any kind of developement, their [Botswana's] wealth is due largely to the presence of some large diamond mines. While the country has not fallen into such unrest that even diamond mining is not productive, it is still difficult to see Botswana as a model for the rest of Africa. Botswana has one of the highest HIV rates, a life expectancy at birth of around 35 years, and unemployment somewhere between 20 and 40%. I doubt this is a great model for showing what happens when Africa is able to help itself.

Two responses.

First, Botswana's ample natural endowments make it an excellent model for much of sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. The problem with these countries is not a lack of resource endowments, but the ability to exploit them in a way that leads to sustainable economic growth.

Second, the point about AIDS (which Virginia Postrel also made in an e-mail) is dead-on, as this CNN report suggests. The model African nation on this front is Uganda. The national AIDS commission has their own web site; according to this page, the percentage of the population infected with HIV has declined from 18% in the early 1990s to 6.5% in the end of 2001.

However, economic freedom plays an interesting role here as well. Click here for a very revealing CNN interview with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. One highlight:

Q: Why should people in Uganda pay for the R&D costs?

A: But ...why should they not? You see if they don't, you are really being naive, idealistic. These people are business people. They are in business because they make profits. First, they recover what they put into the development, and then they make a profit. How can you reasonably argue with them to produce these drugs at a loss to themselves? This is not common sense.

Then there's this quote from a speech Museveni gave last month to the U.S. pharamceutical lobby:

[The] real solution to the defeat of the pandemic lies in economic development and trade. In Africa, we have a terrain in which HIV, malaria, TB and other infections thrive to a degree nowadays unthinkable in Europe and the U.S. The common thread is poverty. For poverty creates an environment, physical as well as social, highly favorable to disease.

So, even as we mobilize our people to change their behavior to protect themselves against HIV, we have to promote broad-based economic growth that will lead to improvement in living conditions and levels of education. The surest path to that kind of growth is trade and investment


posted by Dan on 07.10.03 at 09:55 AM