Monday, February 11, 2008

Profile of Robert Calderisi, author of The Trouble With Africa

An interesting profile of Robert Calderisi, who worked for the World Bank mostly in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and Washington DC before quitting to nurse his ailing parents. In 2006, he wrote The Trouble With Africa, an attack on the present aid structure and argued that governments should concentrate their efforts on the five countries most committed to democracy and poverty reduction (the two are linked.): Ghana, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania and “perhaps” Mali. (I would flip Mali and Uganda, but that’s just me.)

From IOL:

[H]e makes his "impatient" case for Africa. He stresses that aid is not working because of wrong-headed policies and over-taxation. Yes, small agricultural producers such as cotton growers get a raw deal because they cannot compete in the international market. Yes, farmers in western countries are protected by huge subsidies, but that's not the crippling factor. In his view the stumbling block is inefficiency; it is a lack of capacity and skills - swearwords all.

He says in this book that he was not aiming at conservatives but, with the [World] bank linking privatisation and poverty reduction, he is certainly heading in that direction. He is against all that is "politically correct", against the standard excuses of colonialism and slavery for shoddiness and lack of efficiency.

Of course, he is not denying the wretched histories of so many African countries, but he wants to see the continent pick itself up by its bootstraps and get down to some serious agricultural activity.

But before he prescribes remedial action, and there is plenty on offer, he takes us on his magical mystery tour of the continent that began three decades ago.

Calderisi agrees that his criticism is strident, but it is hard to argue against his suggestion for mechanisms to trace and recover public funds, or to disagree with his call for a free press and an independent judiciary.

Calderisi looks post-colonial history straight in the eye and acknowledges that it has been riddled with wrong policies, corruption and greedy dictators.

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