Friday, June 13, 2008

African Development

Source: "Is it Africa's Turn? Progress in the world's poorest region" by Edward Miguel, The Boston Review, MAY/JUNE 2008.

I quote:
After peaking around 1975, African per capita income steadily declined through 2000, with average living standards falling 20 percent. Kenya serves as a pretty close stand-in for the entire continent: the timing of its economic advance and decline differs only slightly, with incomes peaking slightly later. During the same period, two other once desperately poor regions carried out an economic transformation: Indian per capita incomes doubled and Chinese levels rose four-fold......

I am more concerned with what has gone right since 2000, the turnaround in economic performance that has lifted African per capita income levels close to their all-time highs. Africa’s recovery may still be modest by China and India’s standards (average annual per capita income growth for all sub-Saharan Africa has been at about 3 percent between 2000 and 2007), but it constitutes a clear break from the past, and it is now possible to wonder whether the terrible decades of war, famine, and despair are finally over. Several continent-wide trends suggest reasons to hope that they are.........

In the 1970s and ’80s most counties in Africa averaged democracy scores hovering around six, a level at which political freedoms are basically nonexistent, dissident speech is violently repressed, and elections—if they are even held—are mainly for show.

Starting in 1991, however, citizens in dozens of African countries fought for political change. Some were inspired by the freedom wave then sweeping the Soviet bloc and the demise of Apartheid in South Africa. By 2007 the African Freedom House average had jumped to a four. Thus, the typical African country is still not as democratic as Sweden or India, but progress has been widespread and visible.

Comment: That good news might be a false prophecy if a global economic downturn occurs as seems quite possible. When the North sneezes, the South comes down with pneumonia!. JAD

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