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consider this: in the past 40 years, at least a dozen developing nations have experienced phenomenal growth. many of these, mostly Asian, countries have grown by almost 10 % of GDP per year surpassing the West and significantly reducing poverty.

Yet, over the same period, as many as thirty other developing countries , mainly aid-dependent in sub-Saharan Africa, have failed to generate consistent economic growth and have regressed.

many reasons have been offered to account for why African countries are not working :

first : geography

advanced by geographic determinists such as Jared Diamond in Guns Germs and Steel (1997) is that a country’s wealth and success depend on its geographical environment and topography. certain environments are easier to manipulate than others ans such as,societies that can domesticate plants and animals with relative ease are likely to be more prosperous. at a minimum, a country’s climate, location, flora, fauna, and terrain affect the ability of people to provide food for consumption and export, which ultimately has an impact on a country’s economic growth. he noted that all societies and cultures have had approximately the similar abilities to manipulate nature, but the raw materials with they had to start were different.

second : history

historical factors such as colonialism, have also often been put forward as explanation for Africa under-achievement. the idea being that colonial powers delineated nations, established political structures and fashioned bureaucracies that were fundamentally incompatible with the way of life of indigenous populations. forcing traditionally rival and warring ethnic groups to live together under the same flag would never make nation building easy. The ill-conceived partitioning Africa of Africa at the 1885 Berlin Conference did not help matters. the gathering of 14 nations (US,Britain, France, Germany and Portugal, the most important participants) produced a map of Africa littered with small nations whose arbitrary drawn borders would make difficult for them to stand on their own two feet - economically and politically.

there is of course the largely unspoken and insidious view that the problem with Africa is Africans : that culturally, mentally, and physically,African are innately different. that, somehow deeply embedded in their psyche is an inability to embrace development and improve their own lot in life without foreign guidance and help

third : tribe and ethnicity

Another argument posited for Africa’s economic failures is the continent’s disparate tribal groupings and ethno-linguistic make-up.
there are roughly 1,000 tribes across sub-Saharan Africa. most with their own distinct language and customs.

Nigeria with 160 millions people has almost 400 tribes!, Botswana with just over 1 million inhabitants has at least 8 large tribal groupings.
at least, 2 potential concerns face nations with strong tribal divisions. the most obvious is the risk that ethnic rivalry can lead to civil unrest and strife, sometimes culminating in full-blown civil war. in contemporary times, the ghasty examples of Biafra in Nigeria (1967-70) and the ethically motivated genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s. loom large
them ore a country is ethnically divided, the greater of prospect of civil war. this is why, it is argued, Africa has much higher incidence of civil war than other developing regions such as South Asia in the last 30 years. Very little can rival a civil war when it comes to ensuring a country’s (and potentially its neighbours) decline - economically, socially, morally.
In pure financial terms, Paul Collier has estimated that the typical civil war costs around four times annual GDP.

fourth: institutions

Yet another explanation put forward for Africa ‘s poor economic showing is the absence of strong , transparent and credible institutions - civil service, police, judiciary, etc...
In the wealth and Poverty of Nations, David Landes argues that the ideal growth and development model is one guaranteed by political institutions. secure personal liberty, private property and contractual rights, enforced rule of law (not necessary through democracy) an ombudsman-type of government, intolerance toward rent-seeking and optimally sized government are mandatory.

In Empire : how Britain Made the Modern World, Niall Fergusson points to the common-law system and the British-type civil administration as two institutions that promoted development this necessarily includes enforcement of rule of laws, avoidance of excessive government expenditures, and constraints on the executive. in turn, this yields a transparent fiscal system, and independent monetary authority...
In his book, In search of Prosperity, Rodrik points to China and Botswana and Mauritius as examples of countries which largely owe their economic success to the presence (or creation) of institutions that have generated market-oriented incentives, protected the property rights of current and future investors, and deterred social and political instability : Botswana had a GDP per capita of US$8,170 in 2002 more than 4 times the sub-Saharan-Africa average, US$1,780; much of its success attributed to the probity of its political institutions.


Africa’s failure to generate any meaningful or sustainable long-run growth must, ostensibly, be a confluence of factors : geographical, historical, cultural, tribal and institutional.

Indeed, it would be naive to discount outright any of the above, arguments as contributing to Africa’s poor growth history. However, it is also fair to say that no factor should condemn Africa to a permanent failure to growth. this is an indictment that Africa doesn’t deserve. while each of these factors may be a part of the explanation in different degrees, in different countries, for the most part African countries have one thing in common : they ALL depend on AID.

source :
Dambissa Moyo - 2009 Why Aid is not working and there is a better way for Africa
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