Much of the news that comes out of sub-Saharan Africa routinely involves civil wars, poverty, famine and government corruption, but "there's a lot of promise in Africa," says Karol Boudreaux, lead researcher for Enterprise Africa.
From the privatization of wildlife conservancies in Namibia, which has led to a doubling of the elephant herd and increased tourism there, to nongovernmental organizations helping coffee growers in Rwanda boost their take from 80 cents a pound to as much as $25 a pound, there are hopeful signs for economic development on the world's poorest continent, Mrs. Boudreaux says.
Enterprise Africa, an arm of the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, researches free-market solutions to poverty in Africa.
"All you ever hear from the media about Africa" is bad, she said Friday at the monthly gathering of the Conservative Women's Network, a joint venture of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute and the Heritage Foundation.
Among the bright spots in Africa, she said, is Kenya, which — despite recent violence stemming from a Dec. 27 presidential election whose results have been contested as fraudulent — has been the most stable and prosperous nation in East Africa.
She said the Nairobi government is still "on track to accomplish at least part of" the ambitious economic, social and political goals of its Kenya Vision 2030, which aspires to increase the growth of Kenya's gross domestic product to an annual rate of 10 percent over the next 25 years, up from 6.1 percent in 2006.
In Rwanda, starting in 1999 to 2000, Mrs. Boudreaux said, market forces rapidly increased incomes for coffee growers — many of them "genocide widows" — after Kigali stopped requiring them to sell their product only to the government. "This is an industry transforming people's lives," she said. "The profit motive is doing a powerfully good thing."
Mrs. Boudreaux, a member of the working group on property rights of the United Nations' Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor, has traveled to Africa seven times since June 2005. She cited a new 14-nation African free-trade pact as "a wonderful development for the people of southern Africa."