Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Emmanuel’s House

We leave the Ministry for the last time on this trip. It is early afternoon and a light rain is falling. Instead of following our usual route, we turn left and head across a very long bridge over the Montserrado River. We are now heading north through the suburbs of Monrovia. The road is very busy, and lined with shops and stores of all descriptions. We pass the huge complex of the state-owned oil company, the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company. Next, we pass the free port of Monrovia. It is a beehive of activity, with cranes, trucks and shipping containers all over the place. If we were to continue on this road, we would end up in Sierra Leone. We don’t, however, and soon make a sharp right and head east.

This road is also extremely busy. Gridlock, in fact. At several points, we come to a complete stop and wait. Emmanuel explains that this road is always busy, jammed going west in the morning and jammed going east in the afternoon and evening. There are simply too many cars, trucks and motorbikes for this two-lane strip of tarmac to handle. That is why Emmanuel gets up so early in the morning. He typically starts the drive into downtown Monrovia at 5:30 a.m. to “beat the traffic”. Those who don’t drive have to take public transit. I can’t even imagine how long that would take. After a while, we head off the road and start driving on the dirt “shoulder” beside the road, dodging pedestrians and other obstacles as we go. I can quickly see that, even though the alleged shoulder is a moonscape of craters and potholes, we are making much better progress than those who stick to the road itself. I wonder how long I can stand all the bouncing around before I throw up. Emmanuel says people do this all the time in the mornings to save time. Unfortunately, the police are on to this trick and are out regularly to catch the cheaters and give them a ticket. Clearly, a larger road is urgently needed.

We continue for a long time. We go through suburb after suburb, all bustling with activity, human and vehicular. There are markets and stores everywhere where vendors sell produce and wares of all kinds. Eventually, we reach a dirt cross-road. Emmanuel says his house is just down that road, but it is in such bad condition, it is virtually impassible by car. So, we have to do a great circle route to come at his neighbourhood from another direction. Finally, we head down an asphalt road which he says was built in the Samuel Doe era (early to mid-1980s). It looks it. It is in horrendous shape, with potholes large enough to swallow a VW Beetle. Finally, we turn off and freelance our way through fields and dirt goat-paths. We wend our way along this route, literally driving through peoples’ back and front yards, for what seems an eternity. Finally, we come to a halt. We have arrived.

Emmanuel lives in a typical Liberian home. It is a concrete structure with a veranda and a zinc roof. It appears to be in very good shape and nicely looked after. Many other houses are nearby but not too close. There is long grass, shrubs and trees everywhere. It is like living in the country. We approach the home, where I meet his wife. Then his four daughters appear, as cute (and shy) as can be. I am clearly a novelty. They stare at me as if I had just landed from Neptune. After some preliminaries, we walk about three houses away, where Emmanuel’s parents live. They are lovely and absolutely charming. We talk for a while. This is not their original house. It was burned to the ground during the civil war. Surprisingly, it was burned not by the rebels, who did march through here on their way to capture Monrovia from Charles Taylor, but by the Liberian army. I learn that the army just went on a rampage and destroyed anything and everything they came across, for no apparent or useful reason. It is clear his parents don’t want to talk much about those days. His father simply says that once you live through something like that, you can never forget it. He then turns away. I take their picture and we head back to Emmanuel’s house.

We sit on the veranda and chat. The conversation is a bit difficult because they are very shy with me. So, I just start chattering away about whatever I can think of and eventually, the ice breaks a bit. In addition to their own four children, Emmanuel and his wife also look after his sister’s two kids. (I learn later in the car on the way to the airport, that she died suddenly and mysteriously last year at 32 while attending a medical clinic in the neighbourhood for a routine test. She was apparently in very good health. I will leave that story for another day. Emmanuel is really too upset to talk about it, so I change the topic.) After a while, it is time to leave. I take a picture of the whole family and show it to them. We say our goodbyes and head off. Unfortunately, I wasn’t invited inside the house, but it seems quite big, certainly large enough to house its eight inhabitants.

It is a great side trip for me. I have never been in this part of the city before and have never really been in a true Liberian neighbourhood. On the way out, Emmanuel points out his church (he is very religious, as are a large number of Liberians) and the Catholic school that his kids attend. He shows me where the community well is, and how close the local market is. On the way back to the main road, we stop briefly at a local bar/restaurant where Emmanuel introduces me to his former business partner. Before he started working for the Ministry of Commerce, they ran the bar together as well as another store. Emmanuel wants to get back to business eventually. To that end, he is currently building an addition to his house which will serve as a new store he wants to open. He hasn’t decided exactly what products he will sell but he is leaning toward either clothing or cosmetics. I ask if he can make enough money doing that to support his family and he assures me he can. However, that is a way off yet because he still has to get his kids through school (in a previous blog I noted that education in Liberia is not free—even at the elementary/secondary levels, the parents must pay).

We are now on the way to Roberts Airfield. We make a sharp right turn and he proudly points out that this is a brand new road, just finished two weeks ago. It is quite something. It’s a very wide four lane road, complete with curbs, drainage, shoulders and proper ditching. It was built by the Chinese. That’s how they work in Africa. They agree to build infrastructure (roads, hospitals, schools) in exchange for concessions of some kind—for example, a mining license or the right to export oil or other raw materials back to China. It is a smart tactic on their part.

Finally, it is time to part. I give him my e-mail and home address, and we agree to stay in touch. I assure him I will be back very soon. We have definitely developed a bond. He is a neat guy. I am going to miss him, until next time.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Workshops

As mentioned in previous blogs, the principal purpose of this trip was to hold workshops on two statutes I have drafted—a Competition Law and a Foreign Trade Law. The workshops were held on consecutive Wednesdays, one for each statute. Both went extremely well, by any measure. Attendance was excellent. There were representatives of the Ministries of Commerce, Justice, Finance and Foreign Affairs, of the Liberian Chamber of Commerce, the Liberian Business Association, the Liberian Bar Association, the Law Reform Commission and the National Investment Commission, among others, as well as private businessmen and citizens. More importantly, though, the participation level was superb. One never knows what to expect at these types of events. After I finished my half hour introduction, I could well have been met with stony silence. Fortunately, that was not the case.

Liberia folks are not at all shy about expressing their views. That is what happened: I had no sooner finished talking than half a dozen arms were up in the air waiting to be recognized. Virtually all participants had read the laws ahead of time and therefore their questions were informed and thoughtful. As a result, the next few hours just flew by. It was a bit tiring being on the “hot seat” for that length of time, but it was extremely worthwhile. There were many laughs along the way as well.

When people speak of the Liberian Government, the common lament is the lack of “human capital”. That is true. There are many smart people in government today but generally only enough to fill the top positions. Below the top, there is a significant drop-off in talent. Some of that is due to the war where tens of thousands of young men and women were killed or displaced. Also, there is the matter of the Liberian diaspora. Many of those in the upper echelons of government are U.S.- or U.K.-educated. Usually they return to Liberia when they graduate, but many get frustrated with the pace of progress here and head back to America or Europe for better, and frankly better-paying, jobs. There is therefore a wealth of Liberian talent living and working outside the country.

The President needs to address this situation. She is trying to do so through an emphasis on education, but that process will be slow to bear fruit and is financially challenged. The Minister of Commerce told me last year that fully 76% of her employees and staff at the Ministry do not even have a high school education—and this is the Ministry that is supposed to be leading Liberian business back to profitability and developing domestic and international trade policies to facilitate that. The Assistant Minister for Trade, with whom I have worked most closely on this trip, has been constantly frustrated by the lack of talent around him. The result is that he has to do most tasks himself, many of which could easily be, and should be, delegated to a more junior person. Such is the reality in government generally here. The same was true at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when I worked there in 2010.

Nonetheless, as the workshops over these past two weeks demonstrated quite clearly, there are many bright, thoughtful men and women in this country, dedicated to the cause of restoring it to what it once was. There are just not enough of them at this stage.

As a result of the views expressed at the workshops, I have made substantial changes to the Draft Laws. Once those changes are finalized, the Laws will go to the Law Reform Commission for a detailed review. The Commission reviews all laws in Liberia before they are tabled in the Legislature. We are therefore making some progress, one small step at a time.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Have Things Changed?

Since my arrival and during the course of navigating around Monrovia and its environs, I have been asking myself if anything has really changed since the last time I was here a year ago. Certainly, there is more asphalt on the roads, there are new traffic lights powered by solar panels, there are more gas stations and certainly more cars, and there is more building going on. But what about the stock of ordinary Liberians? Has their lot in life improved at all in the last twelve months? Sadly, the evidence would suggest not.

By any measure, the unemployment rate remains at an appalling level, around 70-80% (nobody really knows the exact number). However, it is somewhat misleading to talk about unemployment in this country. That is because most of the employable portion of the population is doing something. That “something” typically involves activity in the so-called “informal sector” of the economy. That means men and women working for themselves with family members commonly assisting them—selling cell phone cards, water, candies and other treats, common household items, agricultural produce, fish, and so on. This, however, is a hand-to-mouth existence that doesn’t generate much in the way of disposable income or tax revenue for the government. The problem is that everyone is doing or selling substantially the same thing, with the result that the sellers vastly outnumber the buyers. Nonetheless, people do what they can to get by. There is no governmental assistance to help them. The average Liberian subsists on about $1.25 a day. Bottom line: life here is very difficult for the average person.

It wasn’t always that way though. For example, in 1960 the average per capita income was about $600 a year. In the scheme of things, not bad in a West African country at that time. That increased to around $800 per year in the mid to late 1970s. In addition, in the 1960s the Liberian economy had double digit growth rates. It was, in fact, the second fastest-growing economy in the world after Japan. Its growth stemmed from increased exports of rubber, iron ore, palm oil and timber. The trouble was none of that growth filtered down to the average Liberian, whose did not improve much as a result.

Where did the wealth go? Mainly to the ruling class, the so-called Americo-Liberians: the descendants of the American slaves who were repatriated to their “homeland” by well-meaning American slave owners in the early 1800s. The Americo-Liberians ruled Liberia with an iron fist once it became an independent republic in 1847, with the indigenous tribes being reduced to second-class citizens. This was a governance model that was doomed to failure. And fail it did, big time. In April, 1980, in one of the most improbable and unlikely coups in recent history, an illiterate Sergeant in the Liberian Army, named Samuel K. Doe, from an area of the country that had theretofore had no influence whatsoever in the running of the government, invaded the Executive Mansion and brutally murdered then President William Tolbert and his wife in their beds. Doe then ruled Liberia for the next decade (despite his obvious deficiencies) until he, in turn, was brutally and savagely murdered (which was famously captured on tape—viewer discretion is strongly advised) by a rebel named Prince Johnson. Prince was in competition at that time with Charles Taylor, who had invaded Liberia with his own force of rebels, from Cote d’Ivoire, for the right to govern Liberia. The 14-year civil year war was on.

During the war, the average per capita income of Liberians dropped to the astonishing level of $50 a year in 1996. It has gradually risen in the years since peace was declared in 2003 to around $300 at the present time. Certainly not enough to live on by any definition. President Johnson-Sirleaf has been doing her best to get the economy back on its feet since she took office in 2006 after democratic elections. It is, however, an enormously difficult task. The infrastructure of Liberia was completely destroyed during the civil war—roads, bridges, power lines and generation facilities, water and sewage treatment, and telecommunications. All of that has had to be rebuilt from the ground up at a tremendous cost. Foreign direct investment has been very difficult to attract given these realities. The people who suffer most are the average citizens.

Take the example of my driver, Emmanuel. He has been driving for the Ministry of Commerce for about four years now. Prior to that he ran a business with a partner. I don’t know what he makes but he told me the other day that the pay from the government is low. He works extremely long hours. He is up just after 4:00 a.m. and usually doesn’t get home until 9:00 or 9:30 at night. He has four girls at various stages in high school. That should not usually represent an onerous financial burden except that in Liberia even primary and secondary school is not state supported. In other words, Emmanuel has to pay the equivalent of “tuition” to get his girls through public high school. Furthermore, he tells me that the tuition fee is just the beginning. The schools keep coming back to him throughout the year with various and sundry charges for a wide variety of things that we in North American take for granted. I imagine that a huge amount of his paycheque (as small as it is) goes to keeping his girls in school. Like most Liberians I talk to, he sees education as the only way out for his kids. So he is prepared to sacrifice everything to ensure that they get a good education and hopefully, at the end of it, a decent and fulfilling job. That is the reality of being a caring parent in Liberia. I wish I could do more for him and others in the same situation. Emmanuel wants to go back into business for himself, but he knows he can’t do that until his kids are through school. He has already built his own store, but it will remain unoccupied for the foreseeable future.

The bottom line is that this country, and others like it (e.g., Sierra Leone) who are transitioning out of a long period of a devastating civil war, have a very long way to go to realize their potential and to share the benefit of that potential with their citizens.

Why I am Here

I spent a month in Monrovia last May and June to provide support and assistance for Liberia’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization, which is, to a large extent, a legal exercise. That is because an acceding country must ensure that its laws are in compliance with WTO rules and principles, which can be found in the WTO Agreement of 1994, including the GATT, and the various Annexes and Agreements appended thereto. It is a large task. As a result, most of my time last year was spent trying to identify those laws that need amendment and those laws that need enactment because Liberia has no legislation in place in areas where legislation is required by the WTO. Two of those areas are competition law and a foreign trade regime. During discussions with WTO members, and at the first key meeting with the WTO in Geneva last July, both the US and the EU, among others, strongly insisted that Liberia have these two laws in force (and in a form acceptable to the WTO) before it could be allowed to become a full member.

Before I left Monrovia last year, it was agreed that I would work on preparing first drafts of each these statutes. There is, of course, no template for either statute—the form each takes depends on the nature of a country’s economy, including, in particular, the level of competition in that economy and the extent of its trade with other nations. With the help of Omar Wakil, I prepared a draft of a Competition Law. It borrowed heavily from provisions in the competition or anti-trust statutes of Canada, the US and the EU, as well as competition laws adopted by less developed countries in recent years. The object was to tailor it to Liberia’s needs and the reality of its nascent economy. I subsequently did the same in the foreign trade area with the helpful assistance of John Terry. Again, the goal was not to create a Cadillac version of such a statute, but rather one that meets the needs of Liberia with regard to its trading patterns.

I was to return late last year or earlier this year to try to finalize these laws from the Ministry of Commerce’s perspective. However, political reality intervened. Liberia is a democratic republic modeled on the US form of government. Elections were held last year and President Johnson-Sirleaf was re-elected for a second term of five years. Soon thereafter, she announced that she was reviewing her Cabinet with a view to making changes. The result was a major Cabinet shuffle in which my Minister lost her job and was replaced. It took some time for the new Minister to get his feet on the ground and get up to speed on all the issues facing the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. Hence the delay in my returning.

The purpose of this trip, then, is to hold workshops on each statute at which stakeholders are invited to attend and make representations or submissions on the draft laws. The point is that these statutes must be Liberian statutes that reflect what various stakeholders feel they should address, not statutes drafted solely by a foreign legal consultant. That is the purpose of the workshops. We hope for good attendance and thoughtful input from the participants. Once the workshops are completed, I will re-draft the laws to the extent required, based on the comments, suggestions and criticisms received. The laws will then go to the Law Reform Commission for review. The Commission reviews all draft laws before they are submitted to the Legislature for enactment. In this case, though, the next step after review by the LRC is to submit the draft laws to the WTO members in Geneva for their review. As mentioned above, they have insisted on the right to review and comment on these laws before they are enacted into force. This will clearly be a long and I suspect highly interactive process.

The first workshop will focus on the Competition Law and the second will focus on the Foreign Trade Law. Stay tuned to see how they turn out.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Return to Liberia

The quintessential Liberia experience is arrival at the Roberts Airfield. It is absolute chaos writ large. No matter how many passengers are on the plane, there are always enough people gathered in the waiting area and outside the airport to make one think that the President and Nobel laureate herself has arrived. Who are all these people? Why are they here? Every person on the plane must have their entire family, down to the third cousin twice removed, come out to greet their arrival. The noise, confusion and incredible level of excitement are overwhelming. Getting past the automatons who pose as border guards (it must take a very long time to master that look and haughtiness and indifference) is one thing, but then being subjected to the cacophony outside the baggage area is something else altogether.

Finally, I spot a friendly face. With a deftness I don’t have time to register, he sweeps me and my baggage through the waiting, shouting crowd to our car. Finally, a bastion of peace and quiet. It is my old pal Emmanuel. He has done this many times before. We settle in for the long ride to Monrovia. I have never looked this up in the Guinness Book of World Records, but Roberts Airfield must be the international airport that is farthest from its alleged destination city (Oslo’s Gardermoen airport might come a close second). It is a good 1 1/2 hour drive. Mind you the road isn’t exactly the 401, but still… I always feel it would be quicker to drive to Cote d’Ivoire than it would be to Monrovia. Nonetheless, we head off in the general direction of the capital.

Emmanuel is a great fellow. As quiet and taciturn as they come, I finally got him to talk a bit last year. I resume my efforts. We start with the banalities and then move on. He has four daughters of whom he is immensely proud. That breaks the ice. By the time we reach my hotel, we have talked about the popularity of the President, the defects in the education and health systems, and the future prospects for the country. Just as we arrive, he shyly asks if I would like to visit his family. I readily agree. Date to be announced. I can hardly wait.

During the pauses in our conversation, I drink in the sights and sounds of a post-war, rebuilding Liberia. Burned and bombed-out buildings are scattered among many newer structures (the latter now being in the majority). I see progress—better roads recently re-paved, more construction, more businesses along the road, and so on. As we come closer to the suburbs of Monrovia, I notice an object completely foreign to this country—a traffic signal. Emmanuel explains that the roads are being built and paved by the Chinese in exchange for other concessions from the Government (although he is not quite sure what they are). The traffic lights are solar powered and are much needed to ameliorate the free-for-all that is driving in Liberia. All around there they are many tangible signs of progress on the long way back to normality. Still, there is an acute shortage of power (only the downtown core really has power on a semi-regular basis) and virtually no water or sewage services. The average person survives on water bought from vendors in the street and a charcoal fire—or, if lucky enough, on a generator. But things are improving.

Emmanuel says there is more optimism now. People can see that their lives are returning to “normal”. It has been a long trip. A fourteen-year civil war together with the loss, disfigurement, disappearance or displacement of many close relatives. There isn’t a person here whose family wasn’t seriously affected in some way by the war. Nonetheless, they carry on as best they can in the hope that things are going to get better. And they will. It is a matter of time and money.

It is great to be back. I am welcomed warmly by the friends I made at the hotel last year. They are genuinely happy to see return visitors. The sights and sounds and smells overwhelm the senses. Toronto quickly recedes from memory, replaced by my home away from home. The journey is long but well worth it. It is indeed great to return. I can hardly wait to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Heartfelt Au Revoir

Incredibly, a month in Liberia has come to an end. It is hard to believe that I have been here for four working weeks. The time has simply flown by. That is largely because the work here has been so interesting and the days have been extremely busy.

Much has been accomplished in a short time. As I mentioned previously, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry does not have a lawyer on staff. There used to be a general counsel (who was quite good by all reports) but he decided to pursue a career in the United States and was not replaced. Like most things here it was simply a question of budgetary constraints. Obviously, money is tight and every expenditure is carefully scrutinized. Thus, Liberia has had to rely on foreign assistance in so many respects – technical, training, professional, security and otherwise. They couldn’t exist without the generosity of the Western world and the NGOs.

As a result of this trip, we have been able to identify for the Liberian WTO Negotiating Team the various laws that will need to be revised (or enacted) in order to comply with WTO requirements. In addition, specific amendments have been suggested for their consideration. Since accession is not expected to occur until 2017 there is time to refine this work, but the important point is that they now have a general idea of what is required on the legal front to make accession a reality. In addition, the WTO consultants from Geneva have been here all week to prepare the Negotiating Team for their first ever meeting with the WTO on July 11. Hopefully, they will be ready for that initial test.

Concurrently with WTO accession, Liberia would like to conduct a full review of all of its commercial laws to ensure they are up to international standards. This includes their business corporation statutes, partnership laws, commercial code, international dispute resolution mechanisms, e-commerce laws, anti-money laundering laws, consumer protection laws and so on. It is a large task. This project was begun in 2009 but had to be suspended due to lack of funds. It now falls to ISLP (and me) to try to fill that gap. It is a terrific opportunity and challenge!! I will be working on that as this project continues.

One of the most rewarding aspects of working here is how grateful people are for the assistance. It is very gratifying to hear how thankful they are for any assistance the Western world can provide.

Today was the time for goodbyes – heartfelt hugs and shaking of hands all round. I will miss the Liberians as much (or more) than they will miss me. I am incredibly impressed by the personal commitment, dedication and enthusiasm I have witnessed on the part of the people I have had the pleasure of working with. They are not well paid but they work hard and for long hours to attempt to get this country back on its feet. They have my complete admiration.

The Minister asked me today if I could come back as the WTO process proceeds and I readily accepted. It will definitely be wonderful to return to Canada and my practice at Torys after a month long absence. Nonetheless, I certainly look forward to a return trip some time down the road to this lovely country to try to continue with what has begun. Hopefully, this project will assist, in the long run at least, in improving Liberia’s economic position and development prospects.

I look forward to seeing you all soon. Tonight I begin the long journey tonight back to Canada. Many thanks to those who have given me helpful (and positive!!) feedback on these blog postings.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions: Part 2

Do Liberian Women Carry Goods On Their Heads?

Of course they do!! This is Africa. It is quite a wonderful sight to see. Liberian women and young girls carry large bundles of goods, carefully balanced on their heads, as a matter of second nature. It is a highly efficient way to transport things, leaving, as it does, one’s hands free. Their loads include everything imaginable: baskets of bananas, coconuts and fruit of all kinds, peanuts, water and soft drinks, huge baskets of bread (baguettes), household goods, and so on. My personal favourites are the women who carry eggs. Not a dozen eggs. They carry large open egg cartons like we have at home, each of which contains 3 dozen eggs which  are then stacked four or five high!! Imagine, 12 or 15 dozen eggs at a time, and not a shell cracked!! Unbelievable.

Is Monrovia Clean?

As mentioned earlier, the civil war destroyed buildings, roads, sidewalks, bridges, churches, homes and so much more in the capital. While reconstruction and rebuilding has begun, at first sight Monrovia looks to be in a decrepit state. Many buildings remain empty and in a terrible state of repair – office, industrial and residential structures alike. But yes, Monrovia is remarkably clean. That is because Liberians are a very fastidious people. They don’t have much, but what they do have they scrupulously take care of. Shop owners sweep the sidewalks and parts of the street in front of their stores regularly. Every morning, debris is swept about 5 metres into the street where it is then picked up by a street sweeper with his pushcart. Garbage collection also seems to happen on a regular basis. So, yes, if you were to walk around downtown Monrovia, you would be impressed by its cleanliness. All it needs is a coat of new paint!! The buildings are uniformly drab and badly in need of freshening up. But that isn’t going to happen any time soon. This country has much higher priorities to deal with first

Who Are the Expats and Why Are They Here?

For the most part, the expats are members or representatives of foreign governments and NGOs and are here to perform specific tasks to help restore Liberia to its previous state and create a viable economy. Where do they come from and what do they do?

The biggest contributor to aid to Liberia is undoubtedly the United States. Through USAID and other like agencies, the American presence can be seen everywhere. They assist in training the armed forces and other security services, and they work with the Government to provide technical assistance and training in a wide variety of areas, including education, agriculture and health. Monies are provided to build schools and healthcare facilities and train more teachers and healthcare professionals, particularly in the outlying Counties. Liberia would be in even more desperate shape than it if it didn’t benefit from the generosity of the United States.

Other major contributors include Germany, Sweden, Norway and the EU. They generally provide skilled professionals or technicians to assist with specific projects, such as refurbishing the ports, providing sources of clean water, and improving the road system. Expats are generally here for limited periods of time, although I have met some on this trip who are here for periods of one to two years.

Sadly, there is no sign of Canada here. We do not maintain an Embassy in Liberia (the closest one is located in Côte d’Ivoire) and we don’t seem to be involved in any aid initiatives that I have ever seen. The Harper Government has chosen to downplay Canada’s efforts and contributions in Africa in favour of increased aid to Latin and South America. Whatever one thinks of that change of course, Canada, as a nation, is simply not a significant player here, or anyone else in Africa for that matter.

A large, but largely unnoticed, aid participant is, of course, China. The Chinese are all over Africa, building infrastructure, hospitals, schools, ports and so on. In Liberia, the Chinese are involved in a number of projects, the largest of which is an iron ore mine in Bong County. In exchange for being granted that mining concession the Chinese agreed to rebuild a major railway line that was destroyed during the war. As a general rule, African nations like dealing with the Chinese. That is because they are not judgmental. They don’t lecture the Africans about the bad governance, corruption, human rights abuses or other shortcomings. Rather, they approach an investment in an African state on business terms. So, in exchange for the rights to mine, harvest timber or explore for oil, the Chinese will offer to build the things Africans desperately need, no strings attached and no questions asked. This model of giving aid to the third world deserves a closer look by the Western nations. Clearly our model of throwing money at problems hasn’t and isn’t working. A new prescription is needed. See on that topic Dambisa Moyo's excellent book, "Dead Aid." as well as Hernando de Soto's "The Mystery of Capital."