Monday, February 25, 2008

Unmasking Africa's seven success stories

A report from the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University (Robert I. Rotberg, Africa’s Successes: Evaluating Accomplishment, Belfer-WPF Report 43, Program on Intrastate Conflict (Cambridge, MA, 2007) evaluated the achievements of seven of mainland Africa's success stories: Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Uganda (in order of 2006 annual GDP per capita).

Success it turns out is relative:
Although all of the seven countries are growing, they are each dependent on primary commodity exports, not on invisible earnings or manufactured products. Unlike the Asian tigers, and arguably Botswana, none has entered a steady state of sustainability, not even South Africa (where population growth continues to outstrip net job creation). The Asian tigers perform well for their peoples—they provide quantities and qualities of the seven essential political goods. In the seven African cases, only Botswana and South Africa begin
to match such levels of performance, and South Africa’s high crime rate makes it the most insecure country among the seven.

From the executive summary:
Africa’s seven successful countries are all growing reasonably rapidly. Yet, job creation still lags behind promises and expectations, underlining the persistence of poverty. Moreover, where there is growing indigenous wealth, there are also severe income inequalities. Several countries will be benefiting from new resource finds, and broad improvements in GDP could eventually flow into the seven countries from such discoveries. But the exploitation of these
finds, and other commercial advances, is being deterred in every case by serious shortages of electric energy. Every country has outrun its available power supplies; several years will pass in each case before these shortages can be met. Moreover, nearly all, except Botswana and South Africa, have road and rail networks that are inadequate for the industrial and agricultural growth on which their economic advances depend. Likewise, each country in our sample is being dragged down economically by the scourges of tuberculosis, malaria, and

I do not like what I read. Maybe I must not write about this. Maybe I must ask for self-censorship and only focus on good news stories in future. Maybe I must be more afraid to face reality. Or, better, develop models that just ignore it.

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