Rise Up, Africa!


The economists Maxim Pinkovskiy and Xavier Sala?i?Martin—of MIT and Columbia, respectively—offer an optimistic take on African poverty:

Soul Makossa

Our main conclusion is that Africa is reducing poverty, and doing it much faster than we thought. The growth from the period 1995?2006, far from benefiting only the elites, has been sufficiently widely spread that both total African inequality and African within?country inequality actually declined over this period. In particular, the speed at which Africa has reduced poverty since 1995 puts it on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty relative to 1990 by 2015 on time or, at worst, a couple of years late. If Congo?Zaire [which has fared far more poorly because of a war] converges to Africa once it is stabilized, the MDG will be achieved by 2012, three years before the target date….

We also find that the African poverty reduction is remarkably general: it cannot be explained by a large country, or even by a single set of countries possessing some beneficial geographical or historical characteristic. All classes of countries, including those with disadvantageous geography and history, experience reductions in poverty. In particular, poverty fell for both landlocked as well as coastal countries; for mineral?rich as well as mineral?poor countries; for countries with favorable or with unfavorable agriculture; for countries regardless of colonial origin; and for countries with below? or above?median slave exports per capita during the African slave trade. This observation is particularly important because it shows that poor geography and history have not posed insurmountable obstacles to poverty reduction. The lesson we draw is largely optimistic: even the most benighted parts of the poorest continent can set themselves firmly on the trend of limiting and even eradicating poverty within the space of a decade.

The whole paper is here [pdf]. Via Tyler Cowen—and check out the comments below Cowen's post, which include some suggestions for further reading.

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  1. I sure hope the sub-Saharan African nations can get it together. The culture of corruption and tribalism (at least partially the legacy of the “colonial” period) is an insidious drain on their resources.

    Here’s to a freer and more liberal Africa!

      1. Ever read David Lamb’s The Africans? It’s dated but pretty insightful, it seems.

        I hope a loose confederation of liberal, free market states is in Africa’s future.

        1. I haven’t read it yet, but it’ll go on my short list.

  2. how the spread of aids plays into this report. I have always read that the economy was destroyed by the effects of the disease.

    1. Don’t forget malaria.

    2. I’ve heard that the numbers of African AIDS victims were way overblown by (primarily UN) aid groups seeking funding. I haven’t followed up to find out if that’s true.

      1. I have been meaning to read about the positive results that George Bush had with the PEPFAR program. It is possible that both stories are related.

  3. somewhat OT question:

    Is Bob Marley the world’s most influential musician?

    1. I think Louie Armstrong is probably the world’s most influential musician. Bob Marley may be the most influential third world musician, especially outside of Africa.

      But if you’re gonna go with the world’s most influential African musician, then I think you have to look at Fela Kuti.

    2. Not even close…

      1. On which one?

        1. Sorry… You (Ken) posted between when I started typing and when I clicked “submit.” While I wouldn’t have gone with Louis Armstrong, I think you can make a cogent argument in support of that. Bob Marley, on the other hand, isn’t even in the same league as Armstrong or Miles Davis, or in the rock world the Beatles or Dylan.

          1. Miles FTW!

            He sold out soccer stadiums in Europe.

            1. so did Britney Spears

          2. If you went to Africa today, how many people would be wearing Louis, Miles, Beatles or Dylan t-shirts? In how many establishments and on how many radio stations would you hear their music? In Asia? In South America?

            I can’t argue that your examples were not popular or influential in their heyday, but which has the enduring, worldwide presence of Bob?

            1. You said “influential,” not “popular.” Here’s my methodology for answering that question: 1.) imagine an artist never existed; 2.) imagine what contemporary music would be like without that artist; 3.) figure out whose absence would create the greatest difference between music as we know it and music as it would have been absent that artist. I don’t care how many people in Africa are wearing Bob Marley t-shirts; I’m looking at his music’s impact on subsequent music. Now, I’ll admit I’m coming at this from an American perspective (I’ve never been to Africa and only spent a couple weeks in Asia), but I see Marley’s musical impact as being quite narrow. Certainly, in the U.S. Marley’s direct musical legacy doesn’t extend much beyond dirty hippie jam bands, and in Africa I think there’s still more influence from the native polyrhythmic tradition (such as Kuti) than from Marley.

            2. Oh, I also think you could argue that Desmond Dekker had more of an impact than Marley, since he not only had a direct influence on Marley but also influenced other genres outside of reggae, such as ska (all three waves), dancehall and dub.

    3. As far as Majek Fashek is concerned.

    4. Wrong band member. The correct answer is Family Man, the artist formerly known as Aston Barrett.

  4. Why is the negro smelling his own arm pit?

    1. Negro is not the preferred nomenclature. African-American, please.

      1. African-American? He’s an African African, if you please.

    2. I was more concerned about the fact that he looks embarrassed about having laid a big turd. Perhaps this is intended as commentary on Africa, but I kind of hope not. (Also, I wish that wasn’t the first thing I thought of, because it’s a very cool picture otherwise.)

    3. Because his knee won’t stop growing.

  5. Fucking global cpitalism. Will it’s horrors never end!!!

    1. Don’t worry. The kleptocrats in charge will find a way to suck this new, richer teat dry, just like our own masters have learned.

      1. But humans are very adaptable and clever monkeys. We figure out how to get around the bandits and “tax collectors.” I think part of this is technology opening up new networking opportunities and also social changes that are breaking down previous barriers to broadening social and economic networks.

        1. ZOMG! Plague Dog said monkey! Sic him, dave b.!

  6. The growth of free enterprise and trade probably had a lot to do with this.

    Free enterprise and trade in and with CHINA that is.

    1. China seems to have made a strategic decision that it will invest (heavily) in Africa, and thus trade more and more with Africa.

      I have no doubt that the Chinese will not consciously pursue a policy of empowering the ordinary people there, but perhaps their involvement will lead to a rising tide that lifts all boats.

      Sad, isn’t it, that the frickin’ Red Chinese, and not the West, is Africa’s best hope?

      1. Africa had a choice, billions from US with strings attached or billions from China with no strings. Which would you choose?

  7. Global warming! (It’s making Africa greener.)

  8. Maxim Pinkovskiy and Xavier Sala?i?Martin

    I’m sorry, but those names are so incredibly awesome that they made it impossible for me to concentrate on any of the rest of this article.

    1. Those are some pretty badass names.

  9. The answer is James Brown. Thank you for playing.

  10. Stevie Wonder is a pretty huge influence, by the way. Everyone forgets him.

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