Derek Newberry

Development at 50,000 Feet

giant execGeorge Soros is giving $50 million toward poverty-alleviation programs in Africa- at the same time, the Gates and Rockefeller Foundation are donating $150 million to increase African agricultural production (Read more by Rob Katz on this). Are we seeing a trend here? Development initiatives funded by corporations and wealthy philanthropists are nothing new, but I can?t ever remember seeing this many reports of people at the very upper echelons of the economic pyramid launching major poverty-alleviation programs? it seems like a 21st century guilt complex kicking in.

To understand the gap between Gates and the people he’s aiding, I always like the classic parade analogy told aptly by a columnist of The Telegraph in Calcutta: ?Think of the people of the world marching by in a parade. Each person’s height is proportional to the average income in his country? and the parade takes exactly an hour to pass by you. For almost all the time, it would be a parade of the dwarfs. The first 6 minutes are primarily made of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with the average height of about 1 foot. India starts in the 9th minute and takes up a full 11 minutes to pass by, with marchers 2 feet tall. After half an hour, China enters, with 3 feet tall marchers, and takes up 13 minutes.During the last 5 minutes of the parade, the height of the marchers escalates frighteningly as 20-footers from Japan enter in the 55th minute. The last three minutes are made up of 27-feet tall marchers from the United States of America. Finally, 36-foot marchers from Luxembourg pass by, taking up less than a second.?

The version of this that focuses on the US economy plays a little differently, but in essence Soros and Gates would be over ten miles tall. It seems like now the members of this ten mile tall club are taking a greater interest in people bringing up the front of the parade. Passing fad or a real social conscience spreading among the most fortunate? One of the biggest complaints about the way aid is distributed is that it is inconsistent and thus unreliable for long-term gain- hopefully the Gates? ands Soros? of the world will make this a serious commitment.