‘Africa Rising’ – or reeling?


africaFor decades Africa was eager for a new narrative, and in recent years it got a snappy one. The Economist published a cover story titled “Africa Rising.” A Texas business school professor published a book called “Africa Rising.” And in 2011, The Wall Street Journal ran a series of articles about economic growth on the continent, and guess what that series was called? “Africa Rising,” Jeffery Gettleman writes for The New York Times:

But in recent months, as turmoil has spread across the continent, and the red-hot economic growth has cooled, this optimistic narrative has taken a hit. Some analysts are now questioning how profound the growth actually was……No place exposes the cracks in the “Africa rising” narrative better than Ethiopia, which had been one of the fastest risers.

Ethiopia is now in flames. Hundreds have been killed during protests that have convulsed the country…..At the same time, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, an arm of the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, just listed Ethiopia as the fastest growing economy on the continent from 2010 to 2015. The Democratic Republic of Congo, which is also rapidly sliding toward chaos — again, was second. South Sudan, which topped The Economist’s list in 2013 of the world’s fastest-growing economies, is now a killing field, the site of one of Africa’s worst civil wars.

afrobarometer2The latest 2016 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) reveals that improvement in overall governance in Africa over the past ten years has been held back by a widespread deterioration in the category of Safety & Rule of Law.

“Nothing has changed on the governance front, nothing has changed structurally,” said Grieve Chelwa, a Zambian economist who is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard. “Africa rising was really good for some crackpot dictators,” he added. “But in some ways, it was a myth.”

Morten Jerven, a Norwegian economic historian who has studied statistics from across Africa, argues that the growth was never as robust as had been believed, The Times adds:

He said that the economic indicators for many African economies in the 1990s and early 2000s were inaccurate, and that the economic progress in the last five to 10 years that appeared to have been sudden was, in fact, gradual.

In other cases, Mr. Jerven said, African governments made bold economic assumptions or simply used fake numbers to make themselves look good. “The narrative had been too rosy,” he said.


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