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In Africa, Something New in the Air: Reform, and Hope

OPINION features excerpts of pieces by columnists from the Op-Ed page and other sections of The New York Times. All columns from the last seven days are available at nytimes.com; Op-Ed pieces (by columnists and outside contributors), plus Editorials and Letters to the Editor, are at nytimes.com/opinion. Please let us know what you think of OPINION at upfront@scholastic.com.

One of the biggest challenges facing Africa today is the need for better governance, meaning both less corruption and better economic policies. The single biggest reason Africa is so poor is that it has had unusually bad leadership. We should help developing countries broadly, not just by writing checks but also by holding their feet to the fire on corruption and economic reform. The time is right because all across Africa, countries are increasing efforts to fight corruption and improve the investment climate. According to the World Bank, some African countries, particularly Tanzania, Ghana, Rwanda, and Nigeria, are among the world leaders in reforming their economies. And where African countries have sustained good governance, economies have boomed. Examples include Botswana, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Mauritius. Partly as a result, Africa enjoyed an overall economic growth rate last year of 5 to 6 percent, twice that of the U.S. So yes, Africa is still afflicted by AIDS, misery, and tyranny. But leadership is improving, opportunities are appearing, and there's something new in the air: reform, and hope.

Nicholas D. Kristof