Signs of hope in sub-Saharan Africa: modest but steady economic growth and the spread of democracy.
By the end of the twentieth century, sub-Saharan Africa had experienced twenty-five years of economic and political disaster. While “economic miracles” in China and India raised hundreds of millions from extreme poverty, Africa seemed to have been overtaken by violent conflict and mass destitution, and ranked lowest in the world in just about every economic and social indicator. Working in Busia, a small Kenyan border town, economist Edward Miguel began to notice something different starting in 1997: modest but steady economic progress, with new construction projects, flower markets, shops, and ubiquitous cell phones. In Africa's Turn? Miguel tracks a decade of comparably hopeful economic trends throughout sub-Saharan Africa and suggests that we may be seeing a turnaround. He bases his hopes on a range of recent changes: democracy is finally taking root in many countries; China's successes have fueled large-scale investment in Africa; and rising commodity prices have helped as well. Miguel warns, though, that the growth is fragile. Violence and climate change could derail it quickly, and he argues for specific international assistance when drought and civil strife loom. Responding to Miguel, nine experts gauge his optimism. Some question the progress of democracy in Africa or are more skeptical about China's constructive impact, while others think that Miguel has underestimated the threats represented by climate change and population growth. But most agree that something new is happening, and that policy innovations in health, education, agriculture, and government accountability are the key to Africa's future.
ContributorsOlu Ajakaiye, Ken Banks, Robert Bates, Paul Collier, Rachel Glennerster, Rosamond Naylor, Smita Singh, David N. Weil, and Jeremy M. Weinstein
About the Author
Edward Miguel, coauthor with Raymond Fisman of Economic Gangsters: Corruption, Violence, and the Poverty of Nations, is Associate Professor of Economics and Director of the Center of Evalulations for Global Action at the University of California, Berkeley.
William Easterly is the author of The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (MIT Press, 2001) and The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good. He is Professor of Economics at New York University (Joint with Africa House), Codirector of NYU's Development Research Institute, visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Nonresident Fellow of the Center for Global Development in Washington, DC.