In his book The Trouble With Africa, Robert Calderisi recounts the sad story of two African teenagers who stowed away in the cargo hold of a Brussels-bound Airbus. They died on the journey from asphyxiation and cold. One of them was still clutching a crumpled note that lamented their misery while petitioning Europe:
Therefore, we African children and youth are asking you to set up an efficient organisation to help with the development of Africa. Thus, if we are sacrificing ourselves and putting our lives in jeopardy it is because we are suffering too much in Africa and we need your help to fight against poverty and bring war to an end in Africa.
The left-of-center British monthly Prospect has also ventured out of comfortable territory with an intriguing article by Paul Romer on “charter cities.” He makes a strong case for the construction of metropolitan areas under a charter granted to a foreign entity. Using Hong Kong as an example, he argues in favor of importing experts to Africa who know how to create the conditions needed for economic prosperity. He argues that hundreds of billions in foreign aid have already been squandered and proposes that future financial flows to Africa should be channeled into schemes which will provide engines for economic growth.
Both The Trouble With Africa and Paul Romer’s article appear to call for a form of neo-colonialism. A relentless flow of empirical evidence from Harare to Haiti and from Dakar to Detroit shows that “black”-dominated administrations follow a familiar path. They destroy established structures, leading to degradation, ruin, and chaos.
In South Africa the Western Cape Province (which includes Cape Town) is one of precious few highly developed, heavily populated areas on the continent where there is a semblance of order, where services are provided and the rule of law is enforced. It is also the continent’s last white-led political entity of any significance. The Provincial Administration is led by the formidable Helen Zille of the Democratic Alliance, who is setting an embarrassing example of good governance for the ANC, which rules all the other eight provinces with varying degrees of incompetence and dishonesty. Mrs. Zille recently attracted furious fire from the media and the ANC leadership for referring to people streaming west from the atrociously governed Eastern Cape as “refugees.” She was right, but she struck a raw nerve.
Sadly, success is a double-edged sword because good news travels fast. Thousands from all over Africa are stampeding to the Western Cape fleeing ruin in their homelands to seek the shelter that functional governance allows. At the same time many more of their compatriots are fleeing northward in an attempt to find refuge in Europe. With that uncontrollable influx comes trouble, because service-demand inevitably exceeds supply and unemployment increases, leading to violence and crime. Already Somalis are fighting gun battles in Cape Town and Nigerians are wresting control of the drug trade from the older gangs while local blacks are burning foreign blacks out of the tented camps. Desperation drives them into more prosperous areas. Sooner or later the structures will be overwhelmed, the system will collapse, and Cape Town will lose its luster.
In a sense Africa is simply reverting to type. Prior to the colonial era most Africans lived in rural fiefdoms commanded by chiefs who ruled on a whim with absolute and savage power. There were no courts to speak of, no elections, few property rights, and little protection of the individual. Freedom was a foreign concept. European colonials in some cases halted and in others merely constrained this process, but they at least introduced variable degrees of order. This has dissipated.
The answer to Africa’s gloom is obvious: Reinstate the rule of law through intervention that leads to effective governance. We now know that African leaders, no matter how much financial assistance is provided, are seldom capable of this endeavor, so it has to come from outside.
Europe now needs to take this problem by the scruff of the neck and not only through altruism. Europe faces the same sort of problem as the Western Cape does in containing an immigrant onslaught which is already causing civil unrest, straining structures, and draining resources. This has led to economic collapse in some countries. The only possibility of reversing this trend is if they intervene in the African homelands and engage in making these countries orderly and prosperous.
This could provide a platform for economic growth in Africa which will provide work for thousands of poor Africans. These Africans will then have reason to stay at home rather than run. Who knows? Brazzaville may become more appealing than Brixton, Malabo better than Milan, and Bangui more comfortable than the banlieues of Paris.
Unpalatable as it may be, without the intervention of “white” governance skills, there is little hope for Africa.
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