blair commission on african poverty recommends more billions in aid

The Blair Commission set up to find British solutions to African poverty has recommended that the Continent get more billions in aid. There is no doubt that Africa needs all the money it can get, aid cynics’ criticisms notwithstanding. But that money, if it ever comes, should come with new ideas.

Perhaps for a change the money slated for development programs should be channeled as credit to the nascent African middle class. I have previously criticized pro-poor development initiatives for their habit of merely keeping the poor afloat (Think of your average mother of six selling vegetables in a generic African slum). What Africa and its development partners need to do is channel the little development money it has in releasing the talent and aspirations of the middle class to create more jobs. This is not to slight Africa’s poor for lack to talent. It is a mere acknowledgment of the fact that it is the middle class that oftentimes has the education and connections to grow their small start-ups into businesses that create even more jobs.

And in other news, Kenya has struck commercially viable gold. The hunt for oil and gas in the north and north east of the country is still on. One hopes that all the exploration craze will be accompanied by an even greater craze when it comes to investing in Kenya’s human capital.

And yeah, I appreciate the irony in writing about foreign aid and Africa’s vast mineral wealth at the same time.

senegalese court bans using children to beg

The Times reports that a court in Senegal has declared a long held practice by Marabouts of using children to beg  illegal.

“The bowls are sometimes no more than old tin tomato cans; the children, some as young as 4, are often barefoot, and they spend perilous hours on the streets and sidewalks, weaving in and out of traffic in their torn, filthy T-shirts. When they return to their rudimentary living quarters in the evening, they must turn their coins over to the marabouts, or face severe punishment. Not infrequently, newspaper headlines on a back page announce the crushing of a little talibé in traffic”

Using children to beg is a habit that is widespread on the Continent. In many towns and cities you will find children – some as young as  a few months old – next to a bowl with a cardboard writing stating one problem or another.

Of course merely banning the act like the Senegalese court has will not solve the problem, a better social safety net for mothers will, but it is a step in the right direction.