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Monday, 9 June 2008

Collier on African Progress...

Paul Collier provides a common sense explanation on the current African resurgence - we have been learning from our mistakes:

But the growth we are seeing today is not just a result of commodity booms. I don’t think that is the key to Kenya’s pre-election economic success. There is a process at work that does not depend on democracy and is so simple that analysts generally miss it: learning from mistakes. Since 1970 African societies have accumulated a huge stock of experience in how not to manage an economy. For example, from the mid-1970s until the mid-1980s Tanzania adopted regulatory policies that proved to be ruinous. The knowledge they gained through failure is valuable. Tanzania is now one of the best-managed of all Africa’s economies. The European society with the best record of containing inflation over the past sixty years is Germany. It has the best record because it used to have the worst: the experience of hyperinflation immunized Germans from macroeconomic folly.

Learning from failure is an unglamorous and sometimes unpopular explanation for Africa’s improvement. But if it is right it has one hugely important and attractive implication: the improvement is robust. I am hopeful that the present commodity booms will be better handled than those of the 1970s, primarily because many Africans are fully aware of past mistakes and are determined not to repeat them.
I would add that this has come after many failures by the World Bank and IMF. I hope we are not so much learning from history, but slowly developing the capacity to provide our own answers. That ultimately is what will see Africa advance going forward.

View Collier's recent TED Talk to learn more about his thoughts on third world development.


  1. I doubt whether Ng'andu Magande and the MMD have learnt anything from the Kaunda mistakes. Honestly why are they underfunding the Agriculture sector? I am really worried about Zambia's food security both in the short-term and long-term. Most small scale farmers are going to be short changed in the current marketing season because the K80bn budgeted for crop purchases is a joke! This entails a reduced acreage for next season!

  2. Everyone is being down on Zimbabwe because of their hyperinflation. However, their approach to the agricultural sector is excellent. The massive investment in inputs, mechanisation and redistribution is going to pay off dividends if the policy is not stopped by sanctions.

    Agriculture is important not because it is an alternative to the mining sector, but because of it's massive potential to create food security, employment for hundreds of thousands (millions) of people, and it's potential to spin off manufacturing businesses.

    This opportunity should not somehow stop at the level of the Bretton Woods institutions. We should use all the funds that are available to create effective projects - infrastructure, redistribution of land, mechanisation. And we should also use the revenues from the mining industry to finance it.

  3. He's a bit too optimistic..

    The temptation is far from gone.


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