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Opinions: New U.S.-Backed Global Food, Agriculture Program; Foreign Aid To Africa; Medicines In Africa

Geithner, Gates Announce New Global Agriculture And Food Security Program


In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announce the launch of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, a fund “to help the world’s poorest farmers grow more food and earn more than they do now so they can lift themselves out of hunger and poverty.” The new fund is supported by Canada, Spain, South Korea, the U.S. and the Gates Foundation. “Thanks to the leadership of President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Richard Lugar (R., Ind.), the announcement we will make today will be a significant step forward: our commitments total nearly $900 million from now until 2012,” they write.

Geithner and Gates describe the goals of the new program in the context of current and future global food security challenges. They write that the program, which was proposed in 2009 by members of the G8 and G20, will be hosted by the World Bank and “will provide financing to low-income countries with high levels of food insecurity.” They continue, “It will partner with countries that have developed sound agricultural plans and that are already using their own resources to invest in the most effective ways to boost crop production. The fund’s public-sector account will invest in infrastructure that will link farmers to markets, promote sustainable water-use management, and increase access to better seeds and technologies.”

“But aid alone cannot unleash the potential of agriculture. … That is why this fund will have a private-sector account that provides financing to increase the commercial potential of small and medium size farms and other agribusinesses,” according to Geithner and Gates, who add that the fund aims to “provide a transparent way for donors to implement their commitment to agriculture and a predictable source of funding for developing countries.” The writers note that the fund is a way for “several wealthy nations” to make good on the $22 billion pledged last year for global food security (4/22).

Forget Foreign Aid To Africa, Rather Improve Trade Policies

“Appealing to a sense of justice may be a good ploy to silence the critics of foreign aid. But it obfuscates the most important problems Africa faces: bad governments and misguided policies,” Marian Tupy, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

“Africa is poor not because of Western consumption and stinginess, but because it produces too little. Most economists agree that Africa’s low productivity is, in large part, a result of misguided policies, such as restrictions on private enterprise, bad institutions, and inadequate rule of law. Unfortunately, far from stimulating growth and reducing poverty over the last 60 years, aid has served as a disincentive to economic and institutional reforms,” Tupy writes, adding, “In Africa, the constant flow of aid has stunted democratic and private sector development.”

According to Tupy, “only Africans can improve their lot.” He concludes: “Our responsibility is not to make matters worse for them. Foreign aid does that and so do some other Western policies – primarily agricultural tariffs and subsidies for domestic farmers. The ‘just’ thing to do is to remove them, not to give Africa more harmful aid” (4/22).

Africa Must Stimulate Pharmaceutical Innovation, Expand Access To Essential Drugs

“A lack of pharmaceutical innovation and access to essential medicines within Africa is severely hampering the continent’s ability both to discover and develop medicines that meet local public health needs, as well as to deliver drugs in a timely manner, at an affordable cost,” according to a SciDev.Net opinion piece by Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, NEPAD’s CEO, and Carel IJsselmuiden, director of the Council on Health Research for Development.

Mayaki and IJsselmuiden recommend that countries either strengthen their science, technology and related sectors for long-term economic benefits or focus on expanding access to “essential medicines.” They write, “Both approaches are viable and countries often mix the two objectives when considering innovation strategies. In the end, decision makers must be clear on the balance they want to achieve and craft a strategy that meets their goals – economic development, improved access, or both.” They outline some models of success in Africa and also discuss the benefits of regional collaboration (4/21).

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