Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of the Big Four
In Sub-Sahara Africa, Botswana, Ghana, Mauritius and South Africa can be considered the “Big Four” economies in terms of economic development and growth. How successful has these countries been in terms of economic development, and can they be considered role models for other Sub-Saharan African countries? And what are the commonalities and differences in their economic development experiences? This paper argues that only Botswana and Mauritius are unqualified development success stories. The jury is still out on Ghana, and South Africa (after 1994) is at most a mixed success. Generally, Botswana, Mauritius and South Africa escaped the factors which caused economic stagnation in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, such as poor policies, poor trade performance, and weak institutions. Geography and history (initial conditions) are also shown to be important in the case of the Big Four, but to have more complex interactions with policies and subsequent outcomes. In Botswana and Mauritius good growth followed from (or even due to) adverse initial conditions. But not all initial conditions were unfavorable: Botswana and Mauritius, as well as South Africa avoided the worst negative impacts of colonialism and slavery, as well as the potential adverse effects of natural resource abundance. The paper finally remarks on two factors which are often overlooked in the economic literature in explaining country performance: good leadership and good luck.
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