After years of frustration at the stifling atmosphere of political correctness surrounding discussions of Africa, long time World Bank official Robert Calderisi speaks out. He boldly reveals how most of Africa's misfortunes are self-imposed, and why the world must now deal differently with the continent.
Here we learn that Africa has steadily lost markets by its own mismanagement, that even capitalist countries are anti-business, that African family values and fatalism are more destructive than tribalism, and that African leaders prey intentionally on Western guilt. Calderisi exposes the shortcomings of foreign aid and debt relief, and proposes his own radical solutions.
Drawing on thirty years of first hand experience, The Trouble with Africa highlights issues which have been ignored by Africa's leaders but have worried ordinary Africans, diplomats, academics, business leaders, aid workers, volunteers, and missionaries for a long time. It ripples with stories which only someone who has talked directly to African farmers--and heads of state--could recount.
Calderisi's aim is to move beyond the hand-wringing and finger-pointing which dominates most discussions of Africa. Instead, he suggests concrete steps which Africans and the world can take to liberate talent and enterprise on the continent.
It isn't the legacy of the slave trade or colonialism, or the supposed inequities of globalization and world trade, that are to blame for Africa's travails, argues this stimulating contrarian essay. The author insists that Africa's problems are largely of its own making, the product of dictatorial, kleptocratic governments; rampant corruption; economic policies that hobble agriculture, discourage private investment and strangle new businesses with red tape; and a cultural fatalism that inures Africans to misery. Calderisi draws on his experience as a World Bank official in Africa, peppering his analysis with personal anecdotes about Africa's callous, venal officialdom and misguided economic policies. He offers a muted defense of World Bank policies, but also decries Western "political correctness" in indulging Africa's dysfunctions and calls for a new tough-love approach to foreign aid. Assistance to most countries, he contends, should be cut in half and conditioned on thorough democratic reforms and strict oversight by Western donors; responsible governments he lists Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique and Mali should get a large increase in aid with few strings attached. Calderisi's focus on Africa's internal faults and his somewhat essentialist musings on the "African character" will stir controversy, but his cogent argument is an important addition to the conversation over Africa's future.