What is an authentic African?

My sloppy argument has been called out by a commenter and Bill Easterly himself. Last week I asked why:

all the Africans getting press on the aid debate are conservatives and libertarians? Moyo, Mwenda, Hirsi Ali. The list is getting longer. All make good points (well, at least Mwenda does) but these hardly strike me as indigenous voices. Most seem to be channeling Milton Friedman. There’s nothing wrong with a little Friedman in your thinking, but is this “authentic Africa” or the product of elite education in the West?I see two hypotheses: (1) Africans hate aid; and (2) it is easier to get on camera if you are African and hate aid.

To get at my meaning, a better word than “authentic” is probably “original”. Surely a lifetime working, living and politicking in Africa affords African intellectuals a perspective different than that of their Western counterparts? It would be nice to hear more of those voices and views.

Examples? Andrew Mwenda is at his best not when repeating the lessons of Chuck Tilly and European history, but when excoriating the aid community for their naivete in two decades of support for an increasingly thuggish Ugandan President.

There are others. Binyavanga Wainaina’s lament on Western NGOs in Kenya is thoughtful, heartfelt, and original. Mahmood Mamdani thinks and writes about the Darfur conflict from a perspective few Westerners could offer. And George Ayittey pushes indigenous African institutions over imported ones. I’m not convinced, but he’s offering something new.

Sadly, everyone else seems to sound exactly like a London investment banker, the books they read at Harvard or LSE, or (in Easterly’s words) aid agency officials repeating their boring platitudes. And sometimes they just rehash Easterly. More people should rehash Easterly (and Friedman, and Tilly…), but I will always value the fresh voices most–African, Turkish, American, Peruvian or otherwise.