Africa Unjustly Trapped: Why?

Recently I’ve heard from some interesting figures which resonated with me as I sit in a disturbed corner of Africa. I have read the first book and I am keen to get my hands on the second after hearing its thesis. Their theoretical grounding is good and they offer suggestions to solve significant cultural issues but they are, as far as I can tell, still small voices. I’m going to try and sum their theses up grossly in order to put their arguments out and perhaps pique your interest.

I’ve mentioned before on the blog how it makes little sense to me how a country with such rich prospects as Tanzania can be so poor. Another wonder of mine is why do the AIDS prevention techniques presented to me by the US government feel hollow. For me, these books ring as partial answers.

I hope to have more later about each, for now, bullets:

Invisible Cure by Helen Epstein: Why has Africa been trapped with HIV and AIDS? (Amazon)

VIA New York Review of Books review

  1. Africans are no more promiscuous than most other people, as measured by numbers of sexual partners in a lifetime, casual sexual encounters, and visits to prostitutes.
  2. Common transactional relationships (significantly: more than one at the same time) arise from the gulf between an rich and impoverished men and women and the vacuum left by the breakdown of traditional familial, land & tribal ties.
  3. Multiple partners have somewhat more traditional precedent in Africa than in most any part of the world. Both male & female partners are fairly free in this regard (unlike in strict Muslim cultures)
  4. HIV is most contagious in the first few months of the disease. Concurrent partners have contact in that period essentially “networking” the disease, spreading it far beyond the promiscuous members of society.
  5. The bulk of high profile eradication campaigns have ignored this, instead favoring pet ideological goals.
    1. Conservative and religious groups prefer to condemn sex before marriage rather than emphasize faithfulness.
    2. Liberal and Population Control groups have encouraged fairly impractical condom use, especialy for “risky” individuals.
    3. Talking about partner reduction is hard for outsiders. When key reports in 1990 showed this was likely to be successful, the reports were set aside by the UN in favor of easier condom programs.
  6. Uganda was the only success story with a focus on “Zero Grazing” partner reduction, existing community ties, and making the disease the enemy instead of the people with it.
  7. Even today, Uganda is losing its grip on the fundamental solution, preferring to pander to Abstinence-linked funds from Washington and is losing its edge in prevention.


Bottom Billion by Paul Collier: “Why are nations trapped in poverty?” (Amazon)

VIA My Heart’s in Accra review and EconTalks podcast

  1. Internal Conflicts: highly persistent and high risk of going back into them once you come out of them. They are extremely common! Africa in the 1970s large scale violence was low. 1990s so much. Less recently but still an ugly reality
  2. Having a lot of natural resources: should be an opportunity but it too often used to corrode and corrupt the politics (Int’l Aid contributes too). Even if it doesn’t make violence it makes political leaders dysfunctional. Instead they have a contest with each other to control the public purse. Tragedy of the commons “Resource which no one regards as their own”. Causes “Dutch Disease” where in the 1960s, newly discovered vast Natural gas resources deemphasized stable manufacturing markets that help average citizens raise their standard of living.
    1. I suspect this one is the most relevant in TZ. In the past two months the sapphire market has exploded in my town. Agricultural land here is particularly lush compared to other East African countries like Kenya.
  3. Landlocked without natural resources. Options for development are limited to services. (W/ resources Botswana). Around the world, this is 1/3 of the population. Only in Africa these actually became countries, most other places they became parts of more prosperous countries.
  4. Start with poor economic policies, bad governance. Need to fix but pace of reform was much faster if country was big and if population was educated. Reform requires a critical mass of educated people! Educated mass often departs (though it *does* send back money!! How does this count, as aid?)
    1. The great leader Nyerere managed to keep civil war and tribalism at bay here but also conceded defeat in securing anything resembling fiscal prosperity in TZ, as he resigned.

Quick: Someone set up a Print-On-Demand service in TZ, duplication rights, and give me some paper so I can disseminate. Getting tired of dealing with customs.

1 Response to “Africa Unjustly Trapped: Why?”

  • Hi!
    Yep, I’m happy that the Danish NGO never applies to the American security rules….But I suggest the BarCamp in Kampala then. I think I’d rather go there actually. August 29.
    Where are you in TZ? Can catch it from your blog it seems….

    ;-) Pernille

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