frustrations of the african intellectual

William Easterly on Aid Watch captures the frustrations of African intellectuals and their continued neglect by both the aid industry and their home governments.

African intellectuals continue to be on the periphery of the discourse on African socio-economic development. The independence leaders jailed, killed or exiled many of them, leading to fifty years of disastrous misrule and general mediocrity from Dakar to Mogadishu, Khartoum to Jo’burg. The current crop of autocrats and pretend-democrats did not learn a thing from the last half-century and continue to opt for career poverty-voyeurs development experts from donor countries instead of their own people who may have greater incentives to see their homeland match the achievements of the newly emerging states of Brazil, India and China.

debating africa’s growth prospects

The Economist has an interesting debate going on about Africa’s growth prospects. The consensus appears to be that structural factors – such as institutions, culture, colonial history and what not – are the main culprits in the tragic tale of African underdevelopment. I agree. Bad governance, the historical accident of colonialism which halted the natural processes of state formation, among other things such as historical low population densities and a culture that mystifies most things are what continue to deter African nations from realizing their full potential.

Gilles Saint-Paul argues that:

most African countries are trapped at a “low-trust” equilibrium where basic property rights are not enforced and corruption is rampant. Essentially if I do not expect others to fulfil their side of the contract, it is rational for me not to fulfill mine, and transactions eventually disappear

One of my favorite economists, Daron Acemoglu, adds that:

The economic problems of African nations are a consequence of their postcolonial institutions, which are themselves the continuation of the precolonial institutions.

But Lant Pritchett is quick to remind us of the folly of lumping all the sub-Saharan African countries together, pointing out the stark differences between places like Botswana and Somalia or Cote d’Ivoire and Mozambique.

More here.