Researcher’s Log

The more attentive of you may have noticed I haven’t updated this site for some time. I am still intending to finish trawling through the various plans for Saving Africa that are out there, as well as the many criticisms of those plans. But life keeps getting in the way.

If you think you’d like to help out, I’d love to hear from you. You could summarise a book or research a topic. No specialist knowledge needed – that’s the point!

Email me atĀ africa @ if you can lend a hand. Or just sit tight – I’ll get back to it soon, I promise.

In my last post, I talked about the Africa Commission’sĀ proposals for preference agreements, that give selected developing countries access to selected rich-world markets on a country-by-country basis. The Commission praises the US for loosening its agriculture preferences so that poor countries can export clothing they’ve manufactured to the US without punitive tarrifs – even if the original cloth was sourced from elsewhere. (more…)

Faithful reader,

First, let me take the opportunity to thank you for your support over the first few weeks of this project. Your comments, whether complimentary or critical, are invaluable. Even the ones that offer me viagra.

Now, however, I turn to you in dire need of further assistance. (more…)

Ah, St. Paul’s Cathedral! Icon of old London, shrine to the survival of the human spirit, blah blah. What better place to hear Jeffrey Sachs, celebrity economist, brain of the Make Poverty History campaign, and all-round Bringer of Solutions to Difficult Problems (oh yes, and Chairman of Columbia University’s Earth Institute), explain to us the route to a sustainable future? Except, of course, it’s actually a crap place. Because the same incredible size that gives it its majesty and overwhelming sense of solidity and timelessness also makes it a bloody echo chamber, and Jeffrey Sachs has a surprisingly booming voice. (more…)

Over the last week I’ve read a load of essays on everything from the structure of dictatorial power to the effectiveness of participation methods in poverty measurement. Frankly, I didn’t understand much of it. There was a lot of debate about how many extremely poor people there are, and I’ve written a short essay about that. Otherwise, the debates seem focussed on the issue of trade. Essentially, the pro-globalisers point to the success of Asia, which was as poor as Africa thirty or so years ago, as an example of how trade can end poverty. Africa is poor, they argue, because it hasn’t been plugged into trade. Further evidence comes from the fact that over the last twenty years, the period when globalisation has really taken off, poverty has gone down. Other economists question the figures that supposedly show this, arguing that if you take China and India out of the picture, poverty has risen; and that China and India’s success isn’t down to globalisation. (more…)

OK. So I spent an afternoon reading Guardian articles from 2005 about Make Poverty History, The Africa Commission report, and The Future Of Africa. What did I learn? Well, it just increased my sense that there’s massive disagreement about, well, just about all of it. It has, however, given me a slightly better idea of exactly what the disagreements are. The main bones of contention seem to be: (more…)

OK. This is going to take some planning. African development is, I’m beginning to realise, quite a big topic. So I think I’m going to do some general reading first, and try to understand what the big issues are. Maybe I’ll start by looking through some of the newspaper coverage from last year.