Thursday, September 27, 2007

My new favorite African economist

Click on the link above to watch a dramatic* talk by Ghanian economist George Ayittey.

(* as dramatic as a talk on economics can be.)

Ayittey's view of Africa is enlightening.

While appreciative of Tony Blair's drive to generate $50B for Africa, Ayittey suggest that corruption has cost Africa $140B, and capital flight another $80B. In other words, Africa needs structural change to deliver more liberty to Africa, and not a hand-out. One of his suggested first steps is to cast out the "Swiss Bank Socialists" providing economic advice in favor of free markets.

He's quite blunt about what the problem is - a lack of leadership - and what the solution looks like. He says "Africa is poor because she is not free." It's a compelling talk on Africa - easily downloaded for podcast consumption - and it woke me up for other reasons: it's not often in my life that I'm exposed to a raw cry for liberty, and it refreshed my appreciation for what we take for granted here in America.

America can play an important role, and in fact, I'd bet that before long, we'll realize the libertarian and strategic value in boosting Africa.

For an example of the strategic opportunity, consider how much of the US trade deficit originates from China in exchange for simple goods that are competitive only due to the low labor cost. The economic impact of transferring some of this production to even-lower wage Africa would be huge.

What if, someday, African-sourced goods imported to the East Coast of the USA were just as economically viable as Chinese imports to the West Coast?

btw: I highly recommend all of the TED Talks podcasts.

1 comment:

David Tayman said...

Are you familiar with Hernando De Soto (the economist not the explorer)? De Soto's approach to the problems of the third world is innovative and has the potential to truly change the world for the better. The thesis that capitalism works but is confined to an elite minority who oppress the majority is an interesting one and, if not the solution to the problem, certainly has the potential to make things a lot better. Interestingly, some third world nations have followed his alternative path with very good results - most notably Peru.

The lessons and knowledge that were such a basic part of what we learned in Business School and are simply givens in our developed and networked economy, have the potential to be truly liberating to people in the developed world. To short circuit a longer comment, the forces that work against the spread of economic predictability and transparency are the reason why tyranny is such a bad thing.

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With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
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Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous