*** economics tragic failure of decolonization in Africa

African Economics: Famine

African economics decolonization
Figure 1.--Images like this have flooded out of Africa since decolonization. They can not help but pull at a person's hear strings. This Ethiopian woman struggles for survival inm a refugee camp during the 1980s with her starving child. Some 0.1 million Africans are believed to have died from starvation and related diseases in the Sahel during the 1970s. Famine returned again in the 1980s, this time the epicenter was Ethiopia and the southern Sudan. The impact of drought was exacerabated by civil war and national liberatiion struggles. This made it difficult to get relief supplies to where they were needed. The Ethiopian famine was most severe in 1983-84. A U.N. study estimated that 3.4 million people were still at risk in the early-90s. Then the Arabs created the Darfur crisis resultuing in more than a million deaths.

Most of Africa achieved independence from European colonial power after World War II in the 1960s. In most countries the transition was peaceful. The new colonial leaders knew virtually nothing about economics, but widely believed that through Governmenment management and socialist policies that they could rapidly develop their economies. Of course many much better eduacted Europeans also fervently epoused socialism. Depite massive foreign assistance, virtually every country except South Africa proved to be economic disasters. Not only did the newly independent countries not rapidly develop, but living standards in many countries have actually deteriorated. And a tragic series of famines followed one after another in steady sucession. Civil wars and droughts were often involved, but the larger cause has been incompetent leadership, widespread corruption, socialist big government policies, and in more recebnt years Islamic fundamentalism. The people of Africa have, as a result, paid a terrible price. The famines that were once rare have now become endemnic. Millions of people throughoutb Africa are now affected. The situation is worst in East Africa and the sahel. The countries hardest hit vary from year to year. The press tends to focus on drought and try to explain the problem away with climate change. There is little doubt that climate change is a factor, although there is a great deal of doubt how global chage is ocurring and what can be done about it. Drought certainly can lead to a famine. And global warming can cause a famine and lead to a higher frquency and length of a famine. It is unlikely that all these famines could suddenly appear just because of global warming. Press accounts commonly avoid talking about the political dimensiions of famine. many if not most of the great famines of history have a political dimension (the Irish Potato Famine, Stalin's Ukranian Famine, Hitler's Greek and Dutch Famines, the British Bengal Famine, the Japanese Indochina Famine (and smaller famines in the Greater East asia Co-Properity Zone), and Mao's Great Leap Forward). Sometimes such as the case of Stalin, they are politically inspired. In other cases such as the NAZIs in Greece, the Japanese in Indonesia, or the British in Bengal, it was largely a matter of indiference. The African famines seem to have a complex mix of causes, but the political dimension if commonly an important part of that mix. The sharp increase in famines over such a short period since independence (1960s) in no coincidence. It suggests much more is involved other than global warming. One noted economist, Amartya Sen, points out that no substantial famine has ever occurred in a liberal democracy. Too often the political or economic dimensions of fammine are ignored.


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Created: 7:50 PM 12/8/2013
Last updated: 7:50 PM 12/8/2013