Sunday’s papers: Africa, beyond the hype

Apparently old habits die hard, and I’m back again with my regular feature of what you should read in Sunday’s papers, of course with Baby In Tow.  Frankly, I’ve been on paternity leave so long that I no longer know what day it is.  When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t tell if it was Saturday or Sunday.  Sadly Sarah confirmed that it was Sunday.  I don’t know why it’s sad for me, as I don’t have to go back to work anytime soon.  But the end of the weekend is always sad to me anyway.

And so without further delay….

Amongst Ordinary Africans, G-8 Seems Out Of Touch, by Komothi Kiratina, Kenya, WP
As if I wasn’t already disillusioned enough by having my eyes blistered by a benefit concert for the poor, thrown by people with ostentatious displays of wealth, the WP has an excellent story this morning on what debt relief really means for actual, working Africans.  My favorite quote comes from a Kenyan coffee farmer who has to sell his coffee cheaply to a government collective, who then turns around and sells it for a higher price internationally, "Like many hardworking Africans, I have a serious bone to pick with the G-8. [..] Even if they cancel the debt, even if they give our governments aid money, ordinary Africans will not benefit. [..]  That money will only make the corrupt people richer and Africans international beggars for decades to come."   

There is a lot of support in the story behind that assertion, and I suggest you check it out.  I’ve always been disillusioned with the way celebrities preach, and the Live 8 concerts were no exception.  I think my disappointment is eloquently summed up by the comments of another blogger, AlCantHang, who said, "..getting preached at by someone who shows off his garage full of Bentley’s on Cribs ain’t gonna cut it."

Thanks Nats, We’re Having a Ball, Opinion letter from Washington resident Deborah Missal, WP
Normally I find the opinions of the public not worth listening to.  I suppose it comes from having listened to too many hours of C-SPAN callin shows and realizing that my fellow Americans are a bunch of opinionated twits, no different than myself.  However Deborah  Missal’s letter enunciates something many Washingtonians are feeling about baseball returning to DC.  We would have been happy with a team, even a mediocre team, but we’re thankful for having the good fortune of being graced with a really successful, ego-free team.  My favorite line, "Thank you to the ballplayers who appreciate their fans’ support, who tirelessly sign autographs and flip balls into crowds, who seem truly astonished by the sight of hundreds of kids sporting the names ‘Wilkerson’, ‘Guillen’, and ‘Vidro’ on their backs."

And finally, from the NYT Magazine, an excellent article about the very real challenges in Africa that are not answerable by simple aid packages and vaccines.

The Congo Case, by James Traub, NYT Magazine

My favorite quote: "At the Gleneagles summit of the world’s leading economic powers, the G-8, to be held later this week in Scotland, we may well be hearing a great deal about promising African countries like Ghana or Malawi, which need only timely and well-directed help from the West to prosper. It is a persuasive argument, and an urgent one. But it is also true that great swaths of the continent are occupied by countries — Sudan, Sierra Leone, Burundi and, not least, Congo — that, left to their own devices, are very likely to eat themselves up, and their neighbors as well."

Africa’s problems are more complicated than a charity concert, or concerts, can muster.  The concerts don’t hurt, but let’s be realistic about what they can accomplish.