It seems like all of the news that we hear about Africa, as outsiders, is always negative whether it be military regimes, extreme poverty, coups, wars, etc. While about half of the countries in Africa still have wars, military regimes, coups, etc. the other half of the country is improving. But, since the outside world lumps Africa together, we never hear about the improvements of the countries inside Africa. African countries are improving and are paving the way for, hopefully, more countries to follow. Steven Radelet, author of Emerging Africa – How 17 Countries are Leading the Way, says that one should take in both the good and bad news of the region. Granted only 17-23 countries out of Africa’s 55 recognized states are improving in the international eye; one can see how the bad news always trumps the good news. Some factors that Redelet deems as good news are steady economic growth, a deepening of democracy, stronger leadership, and falling poverty. There have been drastic improvements in numbers dating from the 1970s to 2008 due to the ending of the Cold War and the apartheid. Many of these countries have been improving for 10+ consecutive years, which is really promising for the future. And once African countries continue to grow and become sustainable for their civilians, then maybe the world can start to distinguish African countries and not just lump every country into one.
Staying on the topic of Africa and emerging countries, Jeffrey Sachs has established the program Millennium Villages that focus on different areas in Africa. Their goal is to improve health, education, agricultural, infrastructural, etc. issues within these different areas. The village I have chosen is Korara, Ethiopia. Korara is a village that like many other African regions has extreme poverty, poor infrastructure, poor agriculture, and poor education. The goal of MVP is to improve these issues, some of the highlights of the program are “Girls’ Clubs” were established, resulting in dropout decline, more than 20km of roads are under construction/being maintained, farmers have diversified crops and their income has increased by 72% on average. More than 1,200 bee colonies have been established to diversify income sources. Women were trained in managing cows, poultry production, fattening animals and trading textiles and grains. Construction was completed for five health posts and six primary schools. About 6,000 people have access to safe drinking water. Lastly, due to new techniques, the area under irrigation has increased sevenfold to over 1,800 hectares.
Critics of the MVP say that there is no evidence that the MVP brought about the change of the areas; there are no “control” villages to compare to. Another criticism of the program is that there is not enough knowledge about the program in Africa. ‘A significant part of the problem’, the Humanosphere says, ‘is that the journalists do not know about Sachs nor the MVP.’ Other critics of the program have mentioned that the evaluation of the progress of the program is not rigorous and open enough, and that the evaluation itself is inadequate because the data is not transparent. Reading the pros and cons of this program, it is easy to become skeptical of everything. I think the idea of Millennium Villages is in the right place. Yes, these areas have improved, but not many people know of it, journalists didn’t even know who Jeffrey Sachs was, or what the MVP was. If not that many people know about it, then less people will support it. But, frankly this sort of initiative and effort regarding the state of sub-Saharan Africa should have been displayed a long time ago, trying to change decades of lifestyles and living standards can only work for a short time. What happens if we as humans exceed Earth’s resources, what are poor regions going to do? Wealthier countries can find a means to continue living, but what about the poorer countries that are landlocked, etc.?