The Trouble With Africa

Why Foreign Aid Isn’t Working, Robert Calderisi, Palgrave Macmillan.

It’s easy to identify the challenges facing Africa. Even the casual observer recognizes that genocide, famine, HIV/AIDS, tribal wars and poverty are continent-wide issues, and that economic mismanagement, anti-business practices and corruption are endemic. Yet, solutions to these problems have been elusive, and conventional wisdom says that the West isn’t doing enough to help Africans change their collective fortunes. 

In “The Trouble With Africa” author Robert Calderisi—former International spokesman on Africa for the World Bank—takes a bold contrarian view, arguing that the rest of the world is doing too much to help Africa, and that well-meaning outsiders will be unable to make a significant difference until Africans take responsibility for their own problems. 

Calderisi makes ten specific recommendations, which include promoting a free press and independent judiciaries, introducing mechanisms for tracing and recovering public funds, and requiring internationally supervised elections. Unfortunately, adopting these proposals is easier said than done, and even Calderisi acknowledges that Africa is so diverse that some of his suggestions would have little impact in certain nations. 

“It is difficult to be optimistic about Africa,” laments Calderisi, yet he cities Africa’s enormous natural resources and the indomitable spirit of its people as reasons to be hopeful. “Only those familiar with the human beauty, potential, and suffering of the continent will dare hope for breakthroughs in the next ten years,” he concludes. “More than others, they know that only Africans can break the cycle of terror, poverty and mediocrity that keeps them subdued.”