Can We Defeat Poverty?

Unless Africa tames corruption, new aid efforts will fail.

Fresh help for Africa is on the way. When evangelicals joined U2's Bono this past summer in lobbying the political leaders of the world's richest nations for more trade, aid, and debt relief for Africa, the movement's heavy hitters signed on: John Stott, Billy Graham, and Rick Warren.

Jesus said, "The poor you will always have with you" (Matt. 26:11a). But he might also have cited corruption as another ever-present human condition. In Africa, neither the poor nor the corrupt have been transformed by the $1 trillion in foreign assistance poured over the last 50 years on that continent of 57 nations with 11.7 million square miles of land and 906 million people.

An International Monetary Fund (IMF) study released in June, shortly before the Group of 8 summit, found that there is no correlation between aid and prosperity in sub-Saharan Africa.

But in September at the United Nations in New York City, Bread for the World, the One Campaign, and Bono's DATA organization were scheduled to pool their advocacy resources to keep global poverty on the front burner of policymakers. Top government leaders would be examining the so-called Millennium Development Goals.

This broad-brush, eight-point program aims to eradicate poverty, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, fight killer diseases, protect the environment, and partner globally for economic development.

The focal point is Africa. But the tragic reality of Africa's history is that help from the outside often doesn't. Will billions of dollars of new help, promised by the world's wealthiest nations, make a difference or make things worse?

William Easterly, a disaffected former World Bank economist, has nothing but ...

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