Ending Extreme Poverty in Africa

Jeffrey Sachs' initiative is attracting students hoping to end a cycle of poverty

Want to save African children from malaria? It's easy, said economist Jeffrey Sachs. You only need one day's U.S. Pentagon spending.

 

And still, the U.S. doesn't do it.

 

"It's unimaginable," Sachs said. "It's intolerable. It's stupid. And it's unnecessary."

Invited to Duke's campus by the UNC-Duke-Bennett Millennium Village Project (MVP), Sachs spoke to an estimated crowd of 700 mostly students in Page Auditorium Friday afternoon.

 

"Jeffrey Sachs is the face of the Millennium Village Project," said Duke MVP founder and co-chair senior Damjan DeNoble. "We brought him to Duke because we feel that someone like him can spread the message best to Duke—that he can catalyze the student movement."

What is The UNC-Duke-Bennett Millennium Village Project?

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The UNC-Duke-Bennett Millennium Village Project aims to raise $1.5 million by June 2007 in the first student-led sponsorship of a Millennium Village as a tangible way of demonstrating students' commitment to the international effort to eradicate extreme poverty. For more, click here.

Author of The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities For Our Time, Sachs' hope is to end extreme poverty in the world, and especially at its epicenter in Africa, by the year 2015. Sachs currently serves as director of the MVP at The Earth Institute at Columbia University and as an adviser to the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  

 

"We have to be a little outraged that there are over billion people living in extreme poverty in the world," Sachs said. "The problem in Africa isn't a lack of will. It isn't a lack of desire to live. It's the poverty trap."

 

What is needed, Sachs said, is nothing less than an agricultural, health, and technological revolution in Africa. "The gap between being in extreme poverty and an economic boom is a very small gap," he said. "That's when we're going to see the positive side of globalization at play."

Operating through the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, Sachs' Millennium Village Project seeks to create sustainable change in individual African villages. "Economic development works," Sachs said. "What we have to keep in mind is [it works] not everywhere and not automatically."

 

The UNC-Duke-Bennett MVP is the first student-run initiative, currently raising 1.5 million dollars for the Marenyo village in northwest Kenya. "I think this movement is important because it allows anybody who wants to create a real movement from the grassroots level to do so," DeNoble said. "The Millennium Village Project is independent from geo-politics. There's a system in place that allows you to know exactly where your money is going and exactly what it's doing."

Sachs' encouraged students to travel , see the faces of extreme poverty, and then do something to change it.

 

"Great. I'm ready. Sign me up," said senior Ben Abrams in response to Sach's "Go out and do" message. "But where do I go?"

 

Many students are turning to the UNC-Duke-Bennett MVP partnership. "You are the very first student-led initiative to support a Millennium village and without any paternalism," said Dr. Johnnetta Cole, who introduced Sachs at the talk.

Cole, the first female president of Spellman College and the first African American to chair the board of the United Way, described Sachs as one of the most educated people she's ever met, and not because of his three degrees. "He believes that, ‘Yes, we can change the world,' and one of the groups that is in cahoots with him is Duke University," Cole said.

Sachs received a standing ovation for his address. He met with students afterwards. "I think what Jeffrey Sachs did is illustrate just how feasible change is," said senior Andrew Kitchell. "It's inspiring."