A lot of commentary, both in Economics and in Development Studies, treats sub-Saharan Africa as a basket-case, an insoluble problem that will always be with us. Poverty is concentrated there, and progress is slower – but it is happening. Economic growth rates have been very high for the last decade. The usual lazy explanation for this is that these countries have been in some way “rescued” by huge demand, particularly from China, for minerals and oil. This does not even begin to tell the full story. Africa’s fastest-growing economies are not reliant on oil or mineral exports. The countries below are growing faster than the mineral economies. As the table shows, these six non-oil and non-mineral economies have rebounded from stagnation in the 1980s to strong sustained growth in the last 20 years. These growth rates (confirmed by the IMF), would be the envy of the developed world.
The Economist attributes this success to better governance, more honest and effective public institutions, and control over inflation. There is far less corruption, and the climate for enterprise and employment has improved immeasurably. They have also benefitted from a virtuous circle, whereby countries with better governance have attracted more development aid and debt relief.
Still, what these countries have most in common is their poverty. All of them have an average income per head of less than US$ 29 per week. As the Economist remarks, “They are still a long way short of their potential. There are big gaps in their infrastructure. Poor roads hold up trade. Power shortages are a bar to manufacturing. Development is uneven. The bulk of the people still scrape a living in … subsistence … agriculture.” However, it has to be recognised that these countries have turned a corner, things are improving, and the future can be much better for the people of sub-Saharan Africa.