Rise Up, Africa!
The economists Maxim Pinkovskiy and Xavier Sala-i-Martin—of MIT and Columbia, respectively—offer an optimistic take on African poverty:
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.