With Freedom and Lower Taxation, Africa's Potential Is Vast

Article excerpt

Much of Africa is growing dynamically today. Political and market liberalization are revitalizing and energizing the continent. There is a new generation of leaders implementing democratic reforms, expanding economic growth, and unleashing the human spirit that will help bring greater stability, prosperity, and democracy to African nations.

However, Africa's progress has not reached enough people. Too many are unemployed, undereducated, and living in poverty. While political stability has improved for much of the continent, some nations are still plagued by political unrest. And though economic growth is healthy, development is slowed by political and economic barriers hindering Africans from reaching their fullest potential.

Official thinking in the US about Africa has undergone a major shift. While economic aid and humanitarian assistance remain essential tools in coping with Africa's inevitable crises, policymakers have chosen to utilize other methods to encourage and support economic and political reforms under way. For example, the proposed African Growth and Opportunity Bill - championed by Reps. Philip Crane (R) of Illinois, Charles Rangel (D) of New York, Jim McDermott (D) of Washington, and Donald Payne (D) of New Jersey - encourages African development, self-reliance, and free trade.

But it is not our wisdom, or the limited wisdom of any leader, that will bring prosperity to Africa. It will be the people themselves. And, in order for people to flourish and prosper, they must be free. The most important tool, the essential tool, for building and developing any economy is freedom - not only market freedom but civil and religious freedom as well.

I can't help but notice some common themes in the policy mix of African countries enjoying strong economic growth: (1) reasonable tax rates, particularly on personal incomes, that allow individual Africans to flourish and prosper; (2) stable monetary and exchange-rate policies; and (3) balanced policies on foreign investment with a focus on privatization and economic growth. Other African nations must be encouraged to follow in the footsteps of these countries.

However, a somewhat more ambitious approach may be possible. The initiative can come from Africa, and in a great sense it already has. The East African Community, with its progress toward tariff-free trade and, soon, even a common passport, is only one example. In the south of Africa, the Common Market of Eastern and South Africa and the Economic Community of Western African States have formed other trading blocs. …

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