Radical posturing on Africa

In: Uncategorized

4 Jul 2007

An article published today on the Guardian’s comment is free site shows how apparently radical views on inequality and corruption can lead to conservative conclusions. Salim Lone, a columnist for Kenya’s Daily Nation and former spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq, starts by bemoaning Africa’s poor record on development. He goes on to argue that:

“In truth there was never any real prospect that western governments, which have gleefully presided over the creation of new classes of the super-super-rich, would use their considerable influence to push African leaders to pursue policies which would shift resources away from the rapacious national elites towards the poor.

“Nor was it likely the west would permit Africa to stray from the neoliberal orthodoxies prescribed for the continent by the World Bank and the IMF. These policies have generated wealth for elites and created economic growth in a few countries, but have proved over two decades singularly unable to reduce the human misery afflicting hundreds of millions.”

While Western intervention is certainly open to criticism it would be easy to draw the conclusion from Lone’s argument that real development is not welcome. From his perspective any economic growth could simply benefit the rich and encourage corruption. His view is also compatible with the current emphasis on alleviating the worst excesses of poverty rather than transforming poor economies into wealthy ones. And given his former job at the UN he clearly has no principled objection to Western intervention in he developing world.