What is 7 billion dollars worth? (to Africa)

Another fascinating piece from Ibe

700 billion dollars. On the screen and on paper it doesn’t seem real. Indeed some will tell you it is not real money. Exactly how big is 700 billion dollars? Too many zeros after 7, very big! In America, 700 billion dollars can put some 10 million students through college for free, buy a decent size house for some 4 million Minnesotans. To put that in perspective, as of June 2008 there were a record over 1 million homes in foreclosures. With 700 billion dollars, you can buy 2200 McDonald’s apple pie for each person living in America. In other words we can all have a very real slice of the proverbial American pie.

How about Africa; what can 700 billion dollars buy in Africa? Three times everything it can buy in America. That is not based on any particular research, but I am willing to bet my life on it. But since I have a feeling even with my life on it, you are probably not going to take it worth more than a grain of salt, I went looking for some numbers.

The sum of all West African countries’ GDP is roughly 462 billion dollars. That’s not just a gut feeling either; that is the hard number. If you do the math you’d find that to be about 2/3 of the bailout dollars. In other words, if West Africa wakes up tomorrow with an extra 700 billion dollars in its coffers, things will be about 150% better than they are today. If that’s too much math for you, maybe this would make better sense: That could provide electricity to the whole region, or build first class schools to teach each and every student; it could provide antiretroviral medicine to every person living with AIDS in the whole of Africa. 700 billions is an extra 20 billion 20 lbs bags of rice. How many hungry mouths can we feed with that? And don’t even talk about houses it can buy. We can kiss all the huts good-bye, wipe out all the shantytowns and still have enough change to make good clean water available to every thirsty throats.


A little selfish calculation: How about we forgo the whole West Africa and give it to my beautiful but poor little Guinea. With 4.7 billion dollars in GDP, Guinea is ranked 135 in the International Monetary Fund’s list of world richest countries. With an extra 700 billion dollars, our ranking jumps to 17, after the Netherlands! Let’s put that in term of per person. With our relatively small population of about 10 million people making on the average 470 dollars a year, even if for just that one year, with an extra 700 billion dollars each Guinean would make 70,470 American dollars! That would definitely thin the long line in front of the US embassy in Conakry.


There is no question about it, however you slice it 700 billion dollars is a lot of money. Hell, it’s too much money. I want to add “for most of us”, but the truth is it’s too much money for ALL of us. Yes, that includes Bill Gates too.

Where is the money coming from? Who or what is it going to? Why?

First I don’t think it’s really the “America people” writing this check. I’m with the camp that questions the reality of it all. But regardless whether it’s real money, American people’s money, borrowed from China, or sweet nothing in the ears of investors, it is needed.

Like the next guy struggling to put food on the table, roof above his and his family’s heads and gas in the car to drive back and forth from work, my heart is telling me it’s wrong. You cannot bail out businesses. It is against the whole premise of capitalism which says some will fail, some will sail, today or later. At the end of it all, the market balances itself out.

Especially at a time when people are losing their jobs and their homes, how can the government in all fairness come to the aid of some crooked millionaires that even when they are receiving government aid are throwing money at lavish parties? It is not right.

The underlining details aside, it is right. We all need this 700 billion dollars to do what Secretary Paulson hopes it does. We need it to save capitalism. Whether you like it or not, capitalism is the vehicle carrying the world today. America is the flag ship of that fleet. If it falls, there goes the whole caravan. Regardless how you feel about that, we need that vehicle to run until at least we can formulate a better alternative. (Please save me the Cuba success stories; they seem so only because we expect worse. And when it comes to economic, China is communist like an Oreo is black.)

Like you, I wish the government can save my neighbors from foreclosure, hell I wish they pay my mortgage for just two months (ah, what I can do with an extra $4,000!) However, given the choice, as much as my heart would like me to take the money and take me and family on a much needed vacation, my mind will caution against it. And I will have to say, “No thanks, let Paulson have it”. Because even if we don’t know why, we need the banks to continue lending, we need confidence on Wall Street, we need AIG, we need Fannie and her husband Freddie; and if 700 billion is what it takes, so help us God.

Exactly what is 700 billion dollars worth? All of our livelihood. If you don’t think yours is much right now, trust me it could be worse without this bailout.

If you’d like to hear more from Ibe visit his website.


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