Ebola’s Surprising Effect

Ebola’s Surprising Effect

thisisnttexasThis ebola epidemic has a surprising effect: Americans are wondering if Africans have it better.

Most Americans’ live styles are much better than their counterparts in Africa, but what about the change from year to year? Americans believe they aren’t getting better. Africans by a wide margin believe they are. Both are right.

It’s only a matter of time before Africans feel they are better off than Americans.

Nigeria and South Africa both had ebola patients come to them from the infected areas. One Nigerian ebola patient infected one of the hospital care givers in Nigeria. Both the patient and the care giver were cured. In South Africa no transmission to health care workers occurred. Both South African and Nigeria are today “ebola-free.”

Texas isn’t.

So why is the American future pessimistic compared to the African future, and why is ebola being better contained – outside the three-country infected area – in Africa than America?

I’ve got one answer: school field trips.

School field trips in Kenya are on a massive increase; trips in the U.S. way down.

According to Education Next, “Museums across the country report a steep drop in school tours… A survey by the American Association of School Administrators found that more than half of schools eliminated planned field trips in 2010–11.”

For example, the Field Museum in Chicago has lost a third of its annual school visitors, as has the Cincinnati arts organizations.

I’ve got another answer: declining infrastructure.

The title of the Council on Foreign Relation’s new report on American infrastructure, “Road to Nowhere,” says it all.

Infrastructure is booming throughout Africa. I can’t believe my eyes when I’m absent from Nairobi for more than a couple months: another highway, another factory, another rail line…

Here’s another answer: American protection of human rights is on the decline. While human rights is still on the whole better in America than in Africa, America is getting worse while some parts of developed Africa like South Africa are getting better.

The Human Rights Risk Atlas for 2014 lists America at 139 of 197 countries, or a “medium risk” of human rights abuse.

It’s possible to go on and on down the list of what governments are supposed to do: build roads, educate children, protect human rights. By so many metrics, even the simple metric of stopping the spread of ebola in a hospital, America isn’t doing so well.

While much of Africa is getting better.

But this should come as no surprise. Social investment in education, infrastructure, even the money we spend on courts and judges, is shrinking.

I once thought it impossible that in my life time any African country could achieve some kind of significant metric that bettered America.

I’m not so sure, anymore.