Following our philosophy of sharing knowledge to create a better future, we are presenting some books that have particularly drawn our attention, and that we believe may interest you, on topics commonly discussed in OpenMind: Science, Technology, Economics, Environment and Humanities, among others.
We will periodically publish summaries of these books from now on.
We begin this week by presenting, in collaboration with EsadeGeo, “Emerging Africa: How 17 Countries are Leading the Way”, by Steven Radelet.
Steven Radelet presents an updated and much needed view of Africa with this book. As the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, states in the foreword, this book acknowledges that the continent’s countries have different histories and political systems that are following different paths. The African continent cannot be observed and analyzed from a general and unique perspective, Africa is not a whole and the different situations and times each type of nation finds itself must be distinguished.
Thus, Radelet’s intention in this book is to particularly highlight the 17 nations that, since the mid-90s, have began their ascent towards a more stable political situation and with it a stronger economy and steady growth. Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia make up this group, the per capita income of which between 1996 and 2008 has not increased in any of the cases by less than 2% per year, with an average figure of 3.2%. Countries such as Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe have even reached 5.3 and 5%, respectively.
In this respect, the author laments the limited focus that is projected, when speaking about Africa, to the positive data, with the information being reduced to the more pessimistic reality. “It seems that all the news about Africa over the last 30 years have been bad,” he says, and calls for the continent’s image to be updated. “The view of a whole continent as failed and hopeless is outdated”. While the world has already understood this diversity among the countries in Asia, it seems that we have not noticed with Africa.
The 17 countries listed combine 300 million people. The author makes clear that none of them belongs to the group of oil-producing nations. They do not owe their growth to that source of income and do not follow the economic parameters of these territories, which have very fast growth, but in many cases are not accompanied by an improvement in social indicators. What is being experienced in these 17 countries is an improvement of almost all parameters through adopting stable and lasting measures. The indicators demonstrating this are:
- Economic growth above 2% in all countries;
- Decrease in the number of people living below the poverty line, down from 59% in 1993 to 48% in 2005;
- More than 100% increase in investment and trade;
- Increased school attendance and literacy, especially among females;
- Improvement of health indicators with the exception of countries that have HIV as a perpetual affliction;
- Declining birth rate.
For two decades, between 1975 and 1995, the growth in the per capita income of these emerging countries was zero, but in the following 20 years it soared to 3.2%, with an increase of 50% in 13 years. This indicates the substantial change experienced in the mid-90s, which made the country turn in a radically different and positive direction. The majority of Radelet’s analysis is spent on defining these five fundamental changes that led these nations on the path to growth and transformed their destiny: democratization, improving financial management, the end of the debt crisis and the change in the relationship with donors, the technological revolution and the arrival of the “cheetahs”.
Steven Radelet has a Ph.D. in Public Policy from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Michigan. He currently works as the chief economist for USAID and was previously (in 2010) the senior advisor in Development for the United States Department of State.