Five fundamental changes are boosting growth in Africa

Seventeen emerging African countries are putting behind them the conflict, stagnation and dictatorships of the past, according to a new book by Steve Radelet.

Instead of treating the region as a monolith, the former Center for Global Development senior fellow stressed the differences between Africa’s emerging countries. He said that since the mid-1990s, a group of 17 emerging countries had broken away from the rest of the region and achieved steady economic growth, deepening democracy, stronger leadership, and falling poverty. “The biggest trend in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 15 years is divergence,” Radelet told a November 11 book forum at IMF headquarters in Washington D.C. “The story that people claim—that after all the efforts and the aid flows there has been no change in Africa—is garbage.”

Radelet said there had been three big phases of varied growth in the sub-Saharan African region since 1960. There had been a period of modest growth up to the mid-1970s, which coincided with moves toward independence establishing new countries on the continent.
This period of initial postindependence growth had then ground to a halt in the mid-1970s, under pressure from the oil price shocks and global growth slowdowns of the period. The adverse impact of global events had been complemented by moves toward autocracy among some postindependence African governments.

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