But in fact, the real Africa is quite a bit different. And the problem with all this Western stereotyping is that it manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of some current victories, fueling support for patronizing Western policies designed to rescue the allegedly helpless African people while often discouraging those policies that might actually help. ~William Easterly

Prof. Easterly is on a roll this month.  His Foreign Policy article on development ideology was excellent (my comments are here), and he offers a much-needed corrective to the common media portrait of Africa (starring mainly Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe).  As Prof. Easterly supposes in his latest, the developmentalists have an institutional interest in exaggerating the nature and scope of the problem (much as governments have an interest in exaggerating security threats, etc.).  The larger the problem is, the more important, necessary and powerful they will become (or at least this is the hope), so they have a real incentive to continue to deem all of Africa to be a failure by their standards.  That in turn makes the developmentalists that much more relevant to “fixing” a problem that is already being addressed, albeit at less-than-miraculous speed.  Then comes the revelation that the developmentalists really don’t want you to hear:

In truth, Africans are and will be escaping poverty the same way everybody else did: through the efforts of resourceful entrepreneurs, democratic reformers and ordinary citizens at home, not through PR extravaganzas of ill-informed outsiders.

Just imagine–a world with no NGO junkets, no meddlesome international bankers and bureaucrats, no self-important actors who are out to save mankind!  Okay, let’s not get carried away.  Those things will all continue, but if African nations are fortunate they will not have these things inflicted on them.  These nations have been poorly served by the way in which development lending has been done and the way in which foreign aid has been distributed.  These nations will be the ones that achieve increased prosperity, provided that the developmentalists do not sabotage it, retard it or discourage it through their historically unsuccessful policies.