Africa's Successes: Evaluating Accomplishment

| Nov. 20, 2007

Seven of mainland sub-Saharan Africa’s forty-five nation-states are widely regarded as being success stories. The mixed conclusions of this analysis are instructive in understanding the dynamics of political and economic achievement in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.

Africa’s seven successful countries are all growing reasonably rapidly. Yet, job creation still lags behind promises and expectations, underlining the persistence of poverty. Moreover, where there is growing indigenous wealth, there are also severe income inequalities. Several countries will be benefiting from new resource finds, and broad improvements in GDP could eventually flow into the seven countries from such discoveries. But the exploitation of these finds, and other commercial advances, is being deterred in every case by serious shortages of electric energy. Every country has outrun its available power supplies; several years will pass in each case before these shortages can be met. Moreover, nearly all, except Botswana and South Africa, have road and rail networks that are inadequate for the industrial and agricultural growth on which their economic advances depend. Likewise, each country in our sample is being dragged down economically by the scourges of tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS.

Good governance is essential for economic growth and the avoidance of conflict. Among our set of seven countries—Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Uganda (in order of 2006 annual GDP per capita)—we show diverse results. There are countries that demonstrate steady good governance, lapsed good governance, and questionable levels of good governance. Four are well unified, with few sectional issues. A few exhibit serious leadership deficiencies. Only in Botswana is the bureaucracy thoroughly reliable. On the Ease of Doing Business rankings, Botswana, South Africa, and Uganda rate above the others. Reasonably high levels of corruption persist in all but one nation.

Chinese influence is a new factor in the region, especially in Mozambique and Zambia. Chinese investors will be contributing significantly to the economic development of both countries, conceivably in Tanzania as well. In Mozambique and Zambia, the way in which China operates colonially, extracting and exploiting, has elicited major protests. Throughout the region, the flood of inexpensive Chinese imports has also undercut domestic industry.

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For Academic Citation: Rotberg, Robert. “Africa's Successes: Evaluating Accomplishment.” , November 20, 2007.

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