CGD in the News

It's Time to Listen to What Africans and Latin Americans Really Want | Commentary (Roll Call)

February 12, 2014

From the article

Some might argue against listening to what citizens in poorer countries cite as their priorities. Isn’t that what the buildings full of Washington-based development experts are supposed to figure out? Others say that isn’t even the point of U.S. foreign assistance: It’s our money, so we’ll spend it how we want.

But it’s difficult to argue with what people in Africa and Latin America and elsewhere want. They’re clamoring for access to economic opportunity. And with that comes the ability to meet other daily demands, such as paying for health clinic visits or school books. Access to opportunity allows a definitive exit from dependency and a path toward prosperity. Prosperity in developing countries also means greater opportunities for U.S. businesses.

This is not to dismiss efforts in health or education or disaster relief by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Instead, it means the U.S. must bolster its efforts to promote growth, trade and investment in developing countries. In Africa, this means helping to ensure that the 14 million youth entering the job market every year have a path to a brighter future. In Latin America, this means helping people escape from ever-escalating violence, fueled by a lack of good jobs and growing inequality. The Arab Spring is a stark reminder of what happens when large segments of society are shut out of the economy and a representative voice in government. The risks posed to U.S. national security and our commercial priorities will only grow over time.

Congress should consider three low-cost fixes to push us toward a more effective development policy: an approach that responds to what people in developing countries want.

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