Monday, July 02, 2007

Debating African development

We are not going to be sustainable until we can apply the principles of sustained development in the poorest nations of the world and, thus, alleviate global poverty.  The majority of the world's poorest nations are in Africa and Africa remains the biggest challenge to any theory of development, sustainability included.  This update from Daniel Ben Ami nicely summarizes the scope of contemporary concepts and ideas on development in Africa.
Personally, I am pleased that economists with practical experiences in Africa are now at the forefront of this debate.  Ben Ami has links to several thought-provoking and often contradictory discussions on the topic of development and Africa.  At least there is now realization that simply humming a few bars of kumbaya and having a rock concert will not solve anything (now all we have to do is apply this understanding to climate change). 
Nothing in Africa is going to change unless the political culture of corruption changes. 
The bigger intellectual challenge is whether or not empowerment can ever succeed if it rests first on external intervention for its initiation: i.e. can you ever help establish democracy? Or are democratic freedoms only ever secured by empowerment that comes by the oppressed overcoming their own oppression?
In graphic terms: for all those opposed to US intervention in Iraq, what is their solution to the oppression in Dafur? For Zimbabwe, poster child for UN sustainability?
It is in these circumstances that theory .and concepts must transcend geographical context and actually be useful.