Incentivizing Goodwill: A Lesson from Africa for America

A few mornings ago, the CDC predicted a worst-case scenario for the Ebola outbreak: 1.4 million cases in 4 months. Now, on the streets, and televisions, and social media sites of America, we hear a rising sense of panic about the one case in Dallas and our safety, yet the real site of terror continues to be in Africa.

On "The Brian Lehrer Show" the other morning, several native-African Americans called in, from Sierra Leone to Liberia, largely to plea to the American government to focus efforts on the hotbed of the outbreak. Said one caller from Liberia: "People are dying because of lack of hope, lack of care… hope right now for Liberia is if America can get there sooner, rather than later." The calls were heartbreaking–Lehrer was at a (rare) loss for words.

The problem is complex: West African governments are notorious for deep corruption, and when medical supplies are being held hostage in port for profit (as in Sierra Leone last week), it is clear that U.S. aid can’t swoop in and fix everything…

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