The report of the Commission for Africa, summarised here and more heavily here, is an ambitious and sophisticated analysis of the problems plaguing Africa and the steps needed to solve them. But it isn’t without critics. Last time, I looked at those who criticised the Commission for being too conservative in its calls for Western action and in its criticisms of the role of rich countries and corporations in Africa. This time, let’s look at the other side: those who criticise the report for going too far in those same directions. You could call this the “right-wing” criticism, because its central point is that the Commission doesn’t put enough faith in markets. This is the view of a large number mainstream economists. (more…)


The report of the Commission for Africa, the brain trust of African and other leaders, economists and thinkers set up by Tony Blair, became one of the highest-profile “packages” of solutions for African put forward in 2005, during the Make Poverty History campaign in the leadup to the G8 summit in Gleneagles. We’ve summarised its findings at length, and at a little less length. Its program is heavily evidenced, and comprehensive. But I didn’t want to pretend there haven’t been criticisms of it, because there have. (more…)

Last time, we saw Jeffrey Sachs discussing Africa’s tremendous burden of disease and its relationship to the continent’s poverty and slow economic growth. Next, Sachs turned his attention to the rest of Africa’s problems, and to broader lobbying for more international action on poverty. But a small matter of a terrorist attack got in the way. (more…)

Jeffrey Sachs‘ book The End of Poverty is as much autobiography as pop-economics. Last time, we looked over the sections where he discusses his work advising Bolivia, Poland and Russia on the management of their economies, and their transition towards various types of socialism to liberalised markets. Next, he turns his attention to the world’s biggest developing countries, India and China. (more…)

Martin Meredith‘s excellent book The State of Africa1 gives a concise, thorough, generally impartial and often exhilarating run-through the rollercoaster ride of African politics since the beginnings of independence in the 1950’s. A tale of tyrants, cruel conflicts and broken promises, it’s often scary but never morbid. Its conclusion, though, is striking: “Fifty years after the beginning of the independence era, Africa’s prospects are bleaker than ever before.”

Even I’m not sufficiently presumptuous to try to summarise fifty years of a continent’s history in a blog post. But I can provide a sort of reference guide, for quickly knowing a country’s basic political history. (more…)

The Commission for Africa was a collection of African and non-African politicians, academics and activists, appointed in 2005 by Tony Blair to put forward proposals for policies to kick-start African development. Their report was released in early 2005; as well as the 464-page full report, there’s a reduced “The Argument” version which is also available in book form. If you’re really in a hurry, there’s a six-page executive summary.

We’ve previously run through the Report, and each heading below will take you to the relevant post. Aren’t I just too nice?

So here’s a very quick run-down of the headline points: (more…)

Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked over the recommendations of the Commission for Africa on governance, peace building, trade, social policy and aid. In the final chapter of their report, the Commission outlines the other, wider changes to the process of international governance, and the attitudes of rich-country governments, that are needed to “make it happen.” (more…)