The False Promise of Gleneagles: Misguided Priorities at the Heart of the New Push for African Development

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In response to persisting poverty in Africa, representativesfrom the world's eight leading industrializednations — Germany, Canada, the United States, France,Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Russia — met in Gleneagles,Scotland, in 2005 and agreed on a three-prongedapproach to help Africa. They would increase foreign aid tothe continent, reduce Africa's debt, and open their marketsto African exports. Unfortunately, aid has harmed ratherthan helped Africa. It has failed to stimulate growth orreform, and encouraged waste and corruption. For example,aid has financed 40 percent of military spending inAfrica. Similarly, debt relief has failed to prevent Africancountries from falling into debt again.

Trade liberalization has the greatest potential to helpAfrica emerge from poverty. Yet that is where the leastamount of progress has been made. Negotiations on tradeliberalization have ground to a halt, and the threat of protectionismlooms large as the current global economic slowdownworsens.

The Gleneagles Summit, for all its good intentions, gaverise to unrealistic expectations. The heavy emphasis on aidand debt relief made Western actions appear to be chieflyresponsible for poverty alleviation in Africa. In reality, themain obstacles to economic growth in Africa rest withAfrica's policies and institutions, such as onerous businessregulations and weak protection of property rights.

Africa remains the poorest and least economically freeregion on earth. The West should do all it can to help Africaintegrate with the rest of the world. It should eliminateremaining restrictions on African exports and end Westernfarm subsidies. Africans, however, will have to make mostof the changes needed to tackle African poverty.

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