There are reasons to be both optimistic and troubled about Africa’s development prospects. This column highlights both perspectives – African economies have come a long way and, although nobody dismisses the role of favourable external conditions, much credit is due to domestic conditions and decisions. The most pressing transformation that is needed remains the strengthening, and in some cases building, of the institutions required for lasting development.
Ernesto Zedillo, Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Graziella Bertocchi, Arcangelo Dimico, Thursday, July 30, 2015
HIV/AIDS is an endemic economic problem for significant parts of Africa. This column presents evidence suggesting that the demographic shock induced by the slave trade still shapes the contemporary family structures and sexual behaviour of many African countries. Policymakers and human rights organisations should understand that the struggle against HIV/AIDS involves the eradication of deeply rooted beliefs and practices.
Sara Lowes, Nathan Nunn, James A Robinson, Jonathan Weigel, Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Ethnic identity can fracture nations – it is a leading explanation of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. This column presents evidence from a psychological test that reveals how members of different ethnic groups from the Democratic Republic of the Congo form their respective ethnic identities. This Implicit Association Test reveals that people have a small, statistically significant bias towards own-group. The magnitude suggests that biases are consciously held, rather than being a conditioned response.
Amir Attaran, Roger Bate, Ginger Zhe Jin, Aparna Mathur, Thursday, October 9, 2014
There is a perception amongst pharmaceutical experts that some Indian manufacturers and/or their distributors segment the global medicine market into portions that are served by different quality medicines. This column finds that drug quality is poorer among Indian-labelled drugs purchased inside African countries than among those purchased inside India or middle-income countries. Substandard drugs – non-registered in Africa and containing insufficient amounts of the active ingredient – are the biggest driver of this quality difference.
Nikoloz Gigineishvili, Paolo Mauro, Ke Wang, Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Sustained rapid growth in many African economies has generated a debate on the sources and likely persistence of a so-called 'African growth miracle'. This column looks at the factors underlying growth in an especially vibrant part of the continent – the East African Community. It suggests that rapid growth has been for real and reasonably well diversified.
Jaime de Melo, Julie Regolo, Wednesday, September 17, 2014
The EU is about to extend economic partnership agreements signed in 2007 with countries of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific region. Reflecting on the implementation difficulties associated with previous agreements and the minimal engagements in the upcoming ones, this column argues that these partnerships will fall short. No further integration of African economies will come out of them. Economic Partnership Agreements will have been a sideshow in the EU’s trade policy.
Margaret McMillan, Saturday, August 30, 2014
Some argue that growth across Africa is fundamentally a result of rising commodity prices and that if these prices were to collapse, so too would Africa’s growth rates. This column documents substantial shifts in the occupational structure of most African economies between 2000 and 2010 and thus provides a good reason for cautious optimism about the continent’s economic progress.
Ejaz Ghani, Sunday, August 17, 2014
Just like the East Asian Tigers, the Lions of Africa are now growing much faster than the developed economies. However, this column shows that the growth escalators in Africa are different than in East Asia. The East Asian Tigers benefitted from a rapidly expanding manufacturing sector. The African Lions are benefitting from increases in productivity in the service sector, while the agricultural sector remains unproductive.
Marco Annunziata, Saturday, August 16, 2014
Africa has generated a lot of enthusiasm lately. The cynical view of the continent as a hopeless basket case has been replaced by the lofty narrative of Africa Rising. This column argues that Africa’s progress is impressive, and there is more to the story than a commodity boom. But Africa is at a crossroads. The opportunities are huge, but the road ahead is long, and will require persistent and patient effort from policymakers as well as business.
Emanuele Massetti, Elena Ricci, Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Concentrated solar power generation in Northern African and Middle Eastern deserts could potentially supply up to 20% of European power demand. This column evaluates the technological, economic, and political feasibility of this idea. Although concentrated solar power is a proven technology that can work at scale, it is currently four or five times more expensive than fossil fuels. Concentrated solar power could play an important role in Europe’s energy mix after 2050, but only if geo-political challenges can be overcome.
Denis Cogneau, Alexander Moradi , Saturday, May 17, 2014
The quasi-experiment of arbitrary border design allows for causal interpretation of institutional effects across territories. This column presents evidence on the impact of British and French colonial education policies in West Africa. British flexibility and French centralisation resulted in educational attainment differences that persist – across one border – even among some cohorts of the current workforce.
Julia Cagé, Valeria Rueda, Wednesday, May 14, 2014
African regions where Protestant missionaries were active had indigenous newspapers a century before other regions. This column argues, based on new research, that this difference has had lasting effects. Proximity to a mission that had a printing press in 1903 predicts newspaper readership today. Population density and light density (a proxy for economic development) is also higher today in regions nearer to missions that had printing presses. The results suggest that a well-functioning media – not Protestantism per se – was important for development.
Joachim De Weerdt, Kathleen Beegle, Jed Friedman, John Gibson, Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Whereas the Millennium Development Goal of reducing extreme poverty by half was achieved by 2010, the global hunger rate has only fallen by a third since 1990. Differences in survey design may account for part of this discrepancy. This column presents the results of a recent experiment in which households were randomly assigned to different survey designs. These different designs yield vastly different hunger estimates, ranging from 19% to 68% of the population being hungry.
Leonardo Iacovone, Vijaya Ramachandran, Friday, February 7, 2014
There is an urgent need for job creation in Africa yet something seems to be stunting firm growth. This column shows that African firms are about 20% smaller than their counterparts in other locations. It suggests small firms put the brake on growth as the burden of dealing with government and labour costs may increase with size, or perhaps as they start facing trust issues between managers and workers.
Ameet Morjaria, Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Ethnic favouritism is a longstanding problem in Africa. This column presents new evidence of this phenomenon and how democracy affects it. Data on road building in Kenya confirms strong ethnic favouritism that disappears during periods of democracy.
Holger Görg, Christiane Krieger-Boden, Adnan Seric, Tuesday, December 10, 2013
An expansion in the scope of foreign direct investment in sub-Saharan Africa promises to promote development in one of the poorest regions of the world. This column investigates the extent to which working with foreign multinationals enhances the capabilities of African firms. Acting as a supplier to a multinational enterprise improves a firm’s labour productivity, product and process innovation, while buying from a multinational improves only labour productivity. Governments should take advantage of these spillovers by promoting trade.
Lawrence Edwards, Robert Z. Lawrence, Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Preferential import policies that allow developing markets to export to advanced economies are intended to dynamically promote development rather than just provide basic gains from trade. This column argues that the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act achieves the latter but not the former, distorting incentives along the value-added chain. While beneficial, preferential trade deals are not a panacea and are certainly not a replacement for pro-development policies.
Imran Rasul, Daniel Rogger, Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Around the world, civil service reform is viewed as necessary to deliver public services effectively and to foster development. However, evidence is thin on how the management of bureaucrats affects the provision of public services. This column presents new evidence from Nigeria linking completion rates of government projects to bureaucractic management practices. Greater autonomy is associated with higher completion rates, whereas performance monitoring and incentive schemes seem to backfire. The most effective private-sector management practices may not be suited to public sector bureaucracies.
Thorvaldur Gylfason, Sunday, November 17, 2013
Based on statistical measures of different degrees of democracy vs. autocracy, this article briefly reviews the progress of democracy around the world during the past 212 years, and places democratic developments in Africa since 1960 in that context. Democracy is positively associated with education, which in turn is associated with lower fertility and greater longevity. Democracy is also associated with reduced corruption. Together, these effects suggest democracy should be good for growth – a hypothesis that is borne out by the data.
James Fenske, Saturday, November 9, 2013
Several theories link polygamy to poverty. Polygamy is concentrated in west Africa and has declined in recent decades. Geographic variation in women’s agricultural productivity does not predict differences in the prevalence of polygamy, but historical inequality and exposure to the slave trade do. Although contemporary female education does not reduce polygamy, areas with more educational investment in the past have less polygamy today. Conflict and lower rainfall lead to small increases in polygamy, whereas lower child mortality leads to a large decrease. National policies appear to have little effect.