One part of the world which has been an economic star lately has been Africa, and the recent financial crisis only underlined the region’s growth. Even during 2009 when the global economy contracted, sub-Saharan Africa expanded according to The Economist, and is expected to grow its GDP by 5% both this year and in 2011.
The performance has led some to speculate that Africa may be on the cusp of joining other emerging markets in sustained catch-up growth. That would be a most welcome development; few trends would do more to improve human welfare. But is it a realistic hope? Many times before Africa’s prospects have brightened only to fall prey to war, kleptocracy, and crashing resource prices.
We put the question to the economists at Economics by invitation: is Africa poised for steady, rapid growth?
Lant Pritchett suggests that the question itself leaves something to be desired—it makes little sense to speak of “Africa”:
[T]ake the 45 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over 2000-2005 the average growth rate was 2.2%—exactly the global average—but the standard deviation among African countries was 6.1%—much higher than the global variance. This is a terrible aggregate. All knowing that country X is “African” has done for me is increase the variance—I am not sure whether it was growing very fast (as were Sierra Leone and Mozambique) or collapsing (as were Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire).
So parts of Africa are truly becoming ’emerging economies’, while others continue to spin their wheels. What could help Africa more than most aid donations going forward? An end to agricultural trade barriers and subsidies in the U.S. and Europe, but good luck seeing that happen in the current environment.
Note that South Africa and Nigeria were two nations features in our huge growth stories of the future feature, Meet the MAVINS >