Thursday, January 06, 2005

Re-charting the Congo

The BBC's From Our Own Correspondent has a fascinating essay entitled Re-charting the mighty Congo. Journalist Tim Butcher traveled the length of the river and reported on the utterly decrepit state of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He notes that war, repression, corruption and a non-existent state have made the Congolese into some of the most resilient peoples in the world. They have to be or else they die.

"There is nothing in my home town, Kongolo - this is my only chance to feed my family, " [a trader], Muke Nguy, said before heaving his tottering bike down the trail.

"What's that?" I asked, pointing at a loop of vine on his shoulder.
"My bicycle repair kit," he said. The sap makes a gummy resin, ideal for mending flat tyres. I shook my head in sorry disbelief.

Think how great Africa could be if the skills and talents of its people were released from survival and self-preservation.

While Africa is certainly the least developed part of the world and has the lowest standards of living and highest standards of poverty, anyone who says that this is because Africans are lazy or stupid is an idiot to be disregarded. The typical African will work five times harder than the typical American just to earn maybe 2% of the typical American's income.

In most parts of Africa, there is no universal welfare system. No public housing. No soup kitchens. Erratic health care systems. To survive means relying on your own wits. The real problem is Africa is not the people, but their so-called leaders who counter every step forward with four steps back.


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