Since giving my two-cents on Africa in March last year, I’ve read three 2013 narratives panegyrizing the continent’s buoyant rising star. The first is an optimistic special report on African economies by The Economist, following up to its equally sanguine feature article from March 2011. The second is a more measured Foreign Affairs piece by two Africa careerists at the World Bank. And the third is a newly-published, insightful book by Robert Rotberg, a member of ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Advisory Panel on Africa.
All three narratives broadly converge on the same set of points:
- Demography is both a boon and a burden for African states that needs to be managed through sound economic, social/inclusiveness and political reform policies. Whether Africa’s new demographic realities translate into a nightmare of growing, unmet needs or opportunities for productivity-led growth will depend on how governments respond to the challenges of exploding national populations. In short: it’s all about the numbers.
- The origins of Africa’s development woes were largely rooted in economics, and their solution can likewise be found in economics. Prudent domestic economic management and assimilation into the global trade architecture are paramount. At the same time, the international financial system should assist post-conflict states’ rehabilitory aspirations through more hospitable liquidity conditions.
- Although traditional (i.e. military) security threats have largely abated, threats to human security endure and are in fact growing – disease, malnutrition, high mortality levels and deplorable levels of gender and ethnic inequality. Unaddressed human security threats have the capacity to, and often do, evolve into intractable military conflicts.
- Along with the collective needs of vulnerable and marginal groups, the aspirations of the individual must also be safeguarded. A growing middle class promotes political stability and accountability, increases government revenue, innovation,
Ironically, as Africa’s prospects grow, so too do the challenges facing it. Africa’s newfound peace, economic fertility and capacity for democracy have suddenly and unprecedentedly multiplied the number of angles through which African development can be achieved. But as new possibilities for growth emerge, Africans’ expectations of growth, and the costs of getting it wrong. What we need is a lucid road map to African development which organizes .
To put the into perspective, I Collier and Gunning’s 1999 article, “Why has Africa grown so slowly?“. – “Destiny”, or exogenous and environmental factors that are largely unchangeable . “Policy”, or actual government responses to environmental challenges .
One of the ‘Domestic-Destiny’ impediments to African growth that Collier-Gunning identify is what could probably be termed “political density, market sparsity”. They argue that sub-Saharan Africa’s large number of countries relative to population (roughly two-thirds of India’s population spread over 49 small states) inhibits economies of scale in individual economies and reduces government revenue for financing fixed public goods costs (which tend to be proportionately larger in Africa than in other developing regions). This, Collier-Gunning suggest, works to deflect foreign investment and much-needed technology transfers (as small economies entail higher risks on investment) – choking . There is therefore little scope for the kind of “big push” simultaneous industrialization across multiple sectors that catapults the aggregate economy forward, as famously suggested by Rosenstein-Rodan (1943). Hypothesizing a “big push” in the war-ravaged Eastern European states in the 1940s, Rosenstein-Rodan argued that “big push” industrialization would only work in an area with a large enough territory and population , and he Eastern and southern Europe Despite rising urbanization (70% projected ) and a booming population, there is evidence that Africa’s fragmented political geography, compounded by political and ethnic cultures that resist homogenization , continues to dog . Indeed, Devarajan-Fengler write that despite the gains , sub-Saharan Africa has made little headway in structural transformation (“the shift from low-productivity agriculture to higher-productivity manufacturing and services”), held back by a dormant manufacturing sector and even deindustrialization in the richer, stabler-population countries. Rotberg There are encouraging signs of greater . Unless
Another ‘Domestic-Destiny’ challenge is demography, which Rotberg