As a counterpoint to the woes of Congo, Drake Bennett (via Jim Henley) says much of Africa is doing better than it has in decades. And it's not just a resource-driven boom: "plenty of Sub-Saharan African countries that don't boast oil or mineral wealth are also growing, the new World Bank numbers show, and they're doing it either by finding better ways to make money from traditional exports or by expanding into new sectors."
One important point in this is that the waning of Cold War tensions open up more space in which good things might happen. Bennett observes that "during the Cold War, African leaders were able to play the United States and Soviet Union off each other, threatening to switch their allegiance if they were pushed too hard to reform." It's worse than that, though. During the Cold War, even if you had a good regime in place somewhere, anyone who happened to feel like getting financial and logistical support for his rebellion would only need to turn to the rival superpower. In general, the removal of Cold War tensions seems to have reduced armed conflict all around the world. Clearly, that doesn't cure problems all on its own, but it creates circumstances in which sound political leadership has a chance to survive, and in which individuals have a little more insulation from political events.
All of which is, to me, one more on the longish list of reasons why it's important not to let China's growing prosperity turn into a new superpower rivalry as, for example, Fred Thompson seemed to want to do at yesterday's debate.
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