Results for “africa”
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Africa fact of the day

Advertising Age calculates that around $100 million has been spent blanketing billboards and magazines with images of Bono and other "celebrities", while the total sum raised for Africa is $18 million.

Just to be clear… Total spent on making Bono more famous = $100 million.

Total spent on drugs for Africans = $18 million.

Here is the link, and thanks to Chris F. Masse for the pointer.  Jason Kottke comments


A loyal MR reader asks:

Africa.  What are your long term predictions?  Which policies should rich countries adopt?  Which will they adopt?  What can I do?

My long-term prediction is that Africa will stay quite poor.  Rich countries should offer Africa complete free trade, but the benefits of this move are overrated.  Low productivity, and transport costs and corruption within Africa remain the central problems, not foreign tariffs. 

Libertarians are too quick to say that foreign aid is counterproductive.  Most African governments would be corrupt anyway, and there is usually some positive trickle-down from the aid.  The wastage is massive, and I can understand the desire to stop sending government-to-government aid, but there is a real moral dilemma. 

I also think most of Africa is in a Malthusian trap. That is perhaps the better critique of aid, but alas also of trade as well.  But even within this trap, wealthy foreigners can help make the transition from one steady state to another less painful.  And the trap need not hold in every local corridor.  Plus we are offering a lottery ticket (with what p?) out of the trap.  Malthus doesn’t mean we should turn our backs on suffering. 

The intellectual property issues, when it comes to copying drugs, involve an irreconciliable clash between rule and act utilitarianism. 

Africa is a much bigger moral dilemma than most people are willing to admit.  And that moral dilemma appeared pretty big in the first place.

I see some chance that parts of Africa, such as Ghana and Senegal, will escape the Malthusian trap within twenty to thirty years.  That’s the most positive prediction I am willing to make.

You can do some good if you are willing to directly administer medical treatments to Africans, in Africa.

Here is an interesting bit:

“Thinking about problems analytically can easily suppress sympathy for smaller-scale disasters without, our research suggests, producing much of an increase in caring for larger-scale disasters”, the researchers said. "Insight, in this situation, seems to breed callousness".

#14 in a series of 50.

Markets in everything: African dictator edition

Hmm…I had just been thinking about related ideas:

Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim (of Celtel fame) has created a $5 million dollar cash prize for Africa’s most effective head of state.

year the winning leader will, at the end of his term, get $5m (£2.7m)
over 10 years and $200,000 (£107,000) each year for life thereafter.
"We need to remove corruption and improve governance," Mr Ibrahim said.

…The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership will
be launched in London on Thursday… It will be available only to a
president who democratically transfers power to his successor.  Harvard
University will do the measuring to see just how well the president has
served his or her people during their term in office.

Here is more, and thanks to Pablo for the pointer.  The prize sounds too small, relative to the lure of corruption, but I see no reason not to try this idea.

Why hasn’t South Africa done well?

Dani Rodrik reports:

South Africa has undergone a remarkable transformation since its
democratic transition in 1994, but economic growth and employment
generation have been disappointing.  Most worryingly, unemployment is
currently among the highest in the world. While the proximate cause of
high unemployment is that prevailing wages levels are too high, the
deeper cause lies elsewhere, and is intimately connected to the
inability of the South African to generate much growth momentum in the
past decade.  High unemployment and low growth are both ultimately the
result of the shrinkage of the non-mineral tradable sector since the
early 1990s.  The weakness in particular of export-oriented
manufacturing has deprived South Africa from growth opportunities as
well as from job creation at the relatively low end of the skill
distribution.  Econometric analysis identifies the decline in the
relative profitability of manufacturing in the 1990s as the most
important contributor to the lack of vitality in that sector.

Here is a non-gated version of the paper.  The bottom line is that South Africa is de-industrializing. 

Africa fact of the day

For say, a banana picker in the Central African Republic…The trade barriers at the borders of the rich world may have disappeared, but if our picker wants to sell his bananas abroad he first has to get them onto a ship bound for America or Europe.  That takes 116 days, and an incredible 38 signatures — each one an opportunity for some official to collect a bribe.

That is by Tim Harford, from today’s New York Times.  Today in fact was Tim Harford day, here is his Slate piece, which, among other things, recounts his dinner at China Star with yours truly.  Here is an account of his recent lunch with Tom Schelling.

Sponsor an African Business

Charitable organizations have long made it possible to sponsor a child in a poor country.  Kiva lets you sponsor a business in a poor country.

By choosing a business on our website and then lending money online to
that enterprise, you can "sponsor a business" and help the world’s
working poor make great strides towards economic independence.
Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can
receive monthly email updates that let you know about the progress
being made by the small business you’ve sponsored. These updates
include reports on loan repayment progress, photos of new capital
equipment, narratives on business growth and standard of living
improvements, and more. As loans are repaid, you will get your original
loan money back.

Kiva has recently been discovered by the web and so they are currently out-of-businesses to sponsor (which is a good sign), but it’s a great idea and I intend to sponsor a business as soon as one becomes available.

Thanks to Pablo Halkyard for the pointer.

African private safety nets

Here is an encouraging development from Africa:

In most of Africa, there is no such help for informal workers like Ms. Sow, who sells ndambe, a hearty bean paste that she mixes with tomatoes and onions and slathers on bread. Across the continent, fewer than 10 percent of working people have health insurance, pension coverage or other forms of social security, according to the International Labor Organization, the United Nations’ oldest specialized agency.

But that is slowly changing, and not just because some African governments are expanding their ailing social security systems, vestiges of the colonial days and geared mostly to the vast number of people on the government payroll.

The bigger push is coming from everyday Africans who are tired of waiting for politicians to address their needs and have begun spinning their own safety nets.

Plans in which neighbors come together and create their own makeshift health coverage are the rage in Africa, particularly in the continent’s west. Here, the plans now have a significant presence in 11 countries and membership has grown beyond 200,000 people.

Some of these mutual health organizations, as they are known, include fewer than 100 beneficiaries. The tiny group negotiates with a local clinic and forges a better price for care. Others have linked dozens of community groups to produce sophisticated plans that cover 10,000 or more people and offer an array of services.

"Every day there’s a new group," said Olivier Louis Dit Guerin, who helps set up these microinsurance plans as part of a program run by the Labor Organization. "They’re growing and growing to fill the big gap."

Here is the story.

Books for Africans

Last year before leaving for Liberia, I solicited book recommendations from a few friends (including Alex).  I wanted to come up with a fairly short list of books that Liberian leaders should read if they were interested in building an economic system that would be conducive to economic growth.

Here is the list of books that I took and donated to a college library:

  1. The Birth of Plenty, by William Bernstein
  2. The Noblest Triumph, by Tom Bethell
  3. The Mystery of Capital, by Hernando De Soto
  4. The Elusive Quest for Growth, by William Easterly
  5. The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, by David Landes
  6. How the West Grew Rich, by Nathan Rosenberg and L.E. Birdzell

My lectures last year were essentially built around the material in Easterly’s book.  This year, I’ll be lecturing from Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity, by James Gwartney, et al.  In fact, Jim Gwartney personally donated twenty-five copies of this book for me to take along for the Liberians!

So what books would you take if you were headed off to sub-Saharan Africa, with the chance to lecture to academicians and policy makers?  I have opened up the comments section for you to post your suggestions.

Experimental economics, African style

This settlement in western Kenya, where Ms. Odera lives, has become
a giant test tube, and Ms. Okoth’s instruction is one part of that
experiment. Eventually there will be 10 such test villages, scattered
across the world’s poorest continent.

Led by Jeffrey Sachs,
director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University, the project
aims to fight poverty in all its aspects – from health and education to
agriculture and energy in one focused area – to prove that conditions
for millions of people like Ms. Odera and her neighbors can be improved
in just five years.

It is an important and uncertain gambit. If
it fails, initiatives like that pushed recently by Prime Minister Tony
Blair of Britain to greatly increase foreign aid to Africa may seem
foolhardy. If a single village cannot be turned around with focused
attention, how can whole communities and even countries be revitalized?

…The researchers behind the program are keeping track of every penny
they spend, trying to demonstrate that for a modest amount, somewhere
around $110 per person, a village can be tugged out of poverty.

have tried to measure exactly how bad Sauri was at the start of the
project last fall. Every home was surveyed to get an accurate portrait
of the population. Blood tests were taken among a smaller group for a
nutritional analysis, because many villagers eat only once a day, and
show it.

Blood will also be tested to determine how widespread
the malaria parasite is, and then again later, to see whether the
mosquito bed nets given to every villager help keep more people,
especially children, alive.

Here is the New York Times story.  Here is my earlier post on Sachs’s plan.  Here is an on-line World Bank discussion about when foreign aid works and doesn’t; they invite MR readers to join in.

Africa fact of the day

…the four hundred richest U.S. taxpayers had a combined income in 2000 that exceeded the combined incomes of four of the countries of Mr. Bush’s tropical tour.  The difference was astounding: the $57 billion in combined income of Botswana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda [TC: Botswana and Senegal are relative success stories in Africa, and Nigeria has oil] was the income of 161 million people, who average $350 in income per year, whereas the $69 billion was the income of four hundred individuals.

That is from Jeffrey Sachs’s new The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time.  And you got it right, there is no typo, that is 400 people richer than 161 million people.

Left-wingers think: "My goodness, how can so few have so much?  They were lucky anyway.  Let us raise marginal tax rates." 

Randians think: "Hail the productive powers of capitalism!"

Rawlsians think: "They didn’t produce that wealth, we did."

Others think: "My goodness, Africa is screwed up."

The economist?  The economist wonders why there is not more trade between the two groups…

Aids, Condoms and Africa

Regarding my post, The African Cliff, a number of readers wrote to me about the Catholic Church’s anti-condom teachings (and apparently in some cases mis/disinformation campaigns).

I have three reasons for thinking that Catholic teaching on condoms, whatever you might think of the substantive issue, is not a major factor in the African Aids crisis.  First, Catholics in the US don’t seem to find it difficult to ignore the Church’s teachings when these are costly.  Second, many African countries with high Aids rates have few Catholics.  (Compare the countries in yesterday’s graph with this map of Catholic membership in Africa.)  Third, couples who do not use condoms but follow Catholic teaching in regards to monogamous marriage are unlikely to contribute much to the Aids problem.  It seems inconsistent, moreover, to assume that religion is strong enough to prevent men from using condoms but not strong enough to stop them from sleeping with multiple partners.  Does the man having sex with a prostitute feel less guilty because he isn’t wearing a condom?  (Admittedly, I don’t know enough about venial versus mortal sins to be sure about the latter.)

We hope that Marginal Revolution can be enjoyed by the whole family so I am somewhat reluctant to discuss a second hypothesis brought to my attention by Steve Sailor.  Nevertheless intellectual honesty compels me to mention dry sex.

Epidemiologists are also finding that multiple concurrent sex partners are an important transmission route.  Halperin and Epstein writing in the Lancet (subs. required) note:

Of increasing interest to epidemiologists is the observation that
in Africa men and women often have more than one–typically two or
perhaps three–concurrent partnerships that can overlap for months or
years.  This pattern differs from that of the serial monogamy more common in
the west, or the one-off casual and commercial sexual encounters that
occur everywhere.

Morris and Kretzschmar
used mathematical modeling to compare the spread of HIV in two
populations, one in which serial monogamy was the norm and one in which
long-term concurrency was common. Although the total number of sexual
relationships was similar in both populations, HIV transmission was
much more rapid with long-term concurrency–and the resulting epidemic
was ten times greater.

It is important to understand that multiple concurrent partners does not mean more partners in a lifetime.  What differs in parts of sub-Saharan Africa is the pattern and timing of sexual relations not the number of lifetime partners.  (See also Sailor for a tendentious but interesting take on the why the pattern might be different in parts of Africa.)

The African Cliff

Even though I know about AIDS in Africa this figure shocked me.

What I don’t understand is why the discussion of solutions focuses so heavily on AIDS drugs when condoms are cheaper and more effective in preventing spread of the disease.  And why isn’t condom use in Africa skyrocketing?  (A notable exception is Uganda where AIDS rates have begun to level off due to condom use– see graph).  Condoms are cheap – even if not to every African they can be easily subsidized by donor groups or governments but there is still a large condom-gap in Africa.

Note that in theory condom use could increase transmission of AIDS if it increases sex.  Evidence from the US and elsewhere indicates this is unlikely in practice.  Moreoever, it doesn’t explain why more condoms are not being used.

Figure from the Economic Report of the President (2005) via Ben Muse.