What roles do entrepreneurship and capitalism play in bringing prosperity to the developing world? At an AEI event on Tuesday, Michael Gerson of the ONE Campaign began addressing this question by explaining some of the barriers to business he has seen in Africa, including the fact that under the wrong circumstances, aid and oil can prop up and strengthen elites. Gerson expressed hope in new forms of commercial-focused aid, such as the kind U2's Bono recently advocated, for improving health and creating better-functioning institutions rather than simply distributing monetary assistance.
Chris Horst of HOPE International noted that while there has been genuine financial growth in new businesses in Africa — for example, the growth spurred by Rwanda's entrepreneurs — we must not view the war on poverty as simply an economic struggle. Andrea McDaniel described how her As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative is primarily promoting reconciliation, not business — and yet reconciliation lays the groundwork for trust and economic development in the communities where she works.
Though the importance of commerce in the developing world may be a new priority for rockstars such as Bono, the on-the-ground stories from Gerson, Horst, and McDaniel demonstrate that the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well in the developing world. The panelists agreed that spirit is crucial for spurring economic growth and human flourishing.
This fall, U2’s Bono made public his “humbling” observations about the role of entrepreneurship and capitalism in helping the poverty-stricken communities of the developing world. At the F.ounders Conference in Dublin, he said: “Job creators and innovators are the key . . . aid is just a bridge.” During his visit to Georgetown University on November 12, he acknowledged that “commerce and entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than economic aid — of course we know that.”
Free enterprise is not an idea owned by one political party; it is central to the American identity and critical for sustaining economic growth. How should compassionate citizens think about aid and entrepreneurship? What can we learn from firsthand experiences of those who have worked to promote economic growth in places like Rwanda? Please join this conversation on the roles of entrepreneurship and capitalism in bringing prosperity to the developing world.
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