African Liberty


One of the most interesting sites to come out of Africa recently is African Liberty  which blows open the traditional Western metropolitan elite consensus about how to help people in the continent.

It's refreshing stuff. My eye was drawn to the piece about the 'ambitious UN centrist plan' to get half the world's children into school (free schools, of course, paid for by governments) by 2015. Part of this is Ghana's programme to feed all schoolchildren at taxpayers' expense – a ploy to increase the enrolment figures. That, say the authors, means higher taxes on parents who would gladly ensure their children are properly fed, with less money then available to fix the problems of dilapidated classrooms, out-of-date textbooks and poorly paid teachers.

And the delightfully-named Rejoice Ngwenya, writing from Harare, gives a sharp taste of what life has become like in Zimbabwe:

My day starts with a fire in the gazebo to warm a bucket of bathing water. Electricity is usually down and with a water system that collapsed six months ago, running water is a thing of the past. Zimbabwe National Water Authority has a repertoire of excuses why the precious liquid deserted my home. I have stopped asking. Water bills do come, but there are no penalties for ignoring them... Forget eggs and a cup of tea. They are not on my menu if the preceding day I had no access to at least six United States dollars. My breakfast is therefore limited to a bowl of corn meal porridge with peanut butter, and boiled sweet potatoes!

Then there are pieces arguing that the Aid industry has become – well, just that, a self-justifying industry – and that its critics, the people who believe in opening up markets rather than sending aid to entrenched governments – are in fact its best friends. Challenging stuff.