A few years ago I was in Sierra Leone, just a week after Angelina Jolie, in her capacity as  Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, had visited. The owner of the Crown Bakery, the cleanest and best place to eat lunch in downtown Freetown, proudly pointed out the chair in which she had sat. Her visit, every minute of which was videotaped, highlighted the poverty and misery of the country’s children, the lack of the most rudimentary health and sanitation services, and the ferocious savagery of the civil war, in which rebels made a habit of cutting off people’s limbs with machetes.

As much as I admire and respect Ms. Jolie’s dedication to bettering the lot of the world’s poorest people, her sojourn caused visible harm to the initiative in which I was engaged, to improve the business environment and attract foreign investment to Sierra Leone. Her televised interview on CNN in 2007, in which she tearfully recounted the “nightmare” of meeting Sierra Leonian amputees, was not the kind of thing that attracts stampedes of potential investors. And make no mistake: it is productive investment far more than humanitarian assistance that will save Sierra Leone and countries like it, if indeed they can be saved. [click to continue…]


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