WASHINGTON, October 15, 2014 — According to CCTV’s Katarina Vittozzi, “One key reason Ebola has spread so quickly is that local health services can’t cope with its rapid progression.”
Vittozzi’s comments are a far cry from those of Louis Farrakhan, who believes that Ebola was created by the West to get rid of the black populations around the world. Some ignorant people still believe Ebola outbreaks and other diseases are a curse of God.
Ebola occurs naturally, and we understand that it takes resources to stop an outbreak. One case of Ebola is a tragedy; 3,000 cases is the result of a badly organized society that frowns on knowledge and reason. To amass the resources to prevent future outbreaks, African leaders must return power to the people to organize resources and the response, not leave everything to corrupt governments and their cronies.
There is no respect for government in the afflicted African nations, not confidence, even when they pass on correct information. Only if the people are involved will they have the confidence to cooperate in the response to Ebola, or to other public health crises that may arise.
The military saga that the West knew mostly through “blood diamonds” is over in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone has an elected president, Ernest Bai Koroma, and Liberia is headed by elected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. There is relative peace in both countries. Brutal dictators like Charles Taylor are in jail, put there by the International Court of Justice.
Ebola has revealed the precarious position that Africa is in economically; it is not able to muster the resources to control the outbreak. But it has also revealed the fragility of public institutions there, and the fragility of public trust.
The Ebola virus is a West African problem, but the problems revealed by it are not. They are endemic across the continent. Would Ethiopia, Somalia, or Zimbabwe have been able to contain such an outbreak any better? Because of lack of respect for knowledge and how it is best transmitted — through free markets — Africans are left blaming others for not preventing the outbreak.
It is when people refuse to take responsibility for themselves that things become chaotic.
New governments in Africa often closely resemble the old. Many continue to pillage national treasuries, putting the prosperity of political elites above the good of the people. As Charles Taylor rots in prison, what has changed legally for the ordinary citizens of Liberia and Sierra Leone on the ground? Political elites are still plundering national treasuries and natural resources; exclusive licenses are given to cronies; lucrative contracts and business go to those close to government.
In Africa, if you get a government license to do business and are on side of London and Paris, you are called a businessman, like Strive Masiyiwa of Econet fame in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe, who is facing sanctions for corruption, bestowed the license on Masiyiwa. Strive is just another crony who benefits from lies and lack of freedom. He owes everything to Mugabe.
The international community touts freedom but makes no effort to push freedom in Africa, preferring instead to protect its own interests on the continent. Countries with free markets and true freedom are hard to control, and it is not in the interest of the international community for Africa to reach its creative potential.
Even though the economic weakness of Africa is further exposed by Ebola, there will be charlatans screaming neo-liberalism is a failure and we need government’s heavy hand, particularly in a place like Africa. Neo-liberalism has nothing to do with the free market. It was just a philosophy to give government monopolies to private citizens, not to increase competition; any student of economics should know that neo-liberalism was just fascism marketed in a shiny new package.
Allow people to organize those resources, and Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone would easily deal with any future outbreaks with no need for anybody to point fingers asking why this country or society is not helping.
The free market is about justice. The law must guarantee equality, promising that whatever A can do, B can also do. That is the essence of competition and social mobility.
For Africa to succeed, it must end the destructive policies of greed and foreign manipulation. Africans should be free in Africa. Doctors from Sierra Leone should not be factory workers in Western countries while their government promotes destructive policies in the name of foreign Investment.
The ruins of Africa can be rebuilt once destructive policies are banished. A free people will build grander societies, not by policy but by the will of the people.
Africa needs to be a little bit ashamed that it could not deal effectively with this outbreak. A little shame will lead to a change in attitude, respect the laws of knowledge and create great wealth, a mature society.