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The Prospects for Sustained Growth in Africa: Benchmarking the Constraints

  • Simon Johnson
  • Jonathan D. Ostry
  • Arvind Subramanian

A dozen countries had weak institutions in 1960 and yet sustained high rates of growth subsequently. We use data on their characteristics early in the growth process to create benchmarks with which to evaluate potential constraints on sustained growth for sub-Saharan Africa. This analysis suggests that what are usually regarded as first-order problems -- broad institutions, macroeconomic stability, trade openness, education, and inequality -- may not nowbe binding constraints in Africa, although the extent of ill-health, internal conflict, and societal fractionalization do stand out as problems in contemporary Africa. A key question is to what extent Africa can rely on manufactured exports as a mode of "escape from underdevelopment," a strategy successfully deployed by almost all the benchmark countries. The benchmarking comparison specifically raises two key concerns as far as a development strategy based on expanding exports of manufactures is concerned: micro-level institutions that affect the costs of exporting, and the level of the real exchange rate -- especially the need to avoid overvaluation.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13120.

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Date of creation: May 2007
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13120
Note: CF IFM POL
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  1. Arvind Subramanian & Raghuram Rajan, 2005. "What Undermines Aid's Impacton Growth?," IMF Working Papers 05/126, International Monetary Fund.
  2. Hausmann, Ricardo & Pritchett, Lant & Rodrik, Dani, 2004. "Growth Accelerations," CEPR Discussion Papers 4538, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Fearon, James D, 2003. " Ethnic and Cultural Diversity by Country," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 195-222, June.
  4. Prasad, Eswar & Rajan, Raghuram G. & Subramanian, Arvind, 2007. "Foreign Capital and Economic Growth," IZA Discussion Papers 3186, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Acemoglu, Daron & Johnson, Simon & Robinson, James & Thaicharoen, Yunyong, 2003. "Institutional causes, macroeconomic symptoms: volatility, crises and growth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 49-123, January.
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  7. repec:rus:hseeco:123147 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Easterly, William & Levine, Ross, 1997. "Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1203-50, November.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James Robinson, 2004. "Institutions as the Fundamental Cause of Long-Run Growth," NBER Working Papers 10481, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2006. "Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 12269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Rodrik, Dani & Subramanian, Arvind & Trebbi, Francesco, 2002. "Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions Over Geography and Integration in Economic Development," CEPR Discussion Papers 3643, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Dani Rodrik, 1998. "Where Did All The Growth Go? External Shocks, Social Conflict, and Growth Collapses," NBER Working Papers 6350, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Allan Timmermann, 2006. "An Evaluation of the World Economic Outlook Forecasts," IMF Working Papers 06/59, International Monetary Fund.
  14. Arvind Subramanian & Aaditya Mattoo & Devesh Roy, 2002. "The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and its Rules of Origin; Generosity Undermined?," IMF Working Papers 02/158, International Monetary Fund.
  15. Alesina, Alberto & Devleeschauwer, Arnaud & Wacziarg, Romain & Kurlat, Sergio & Easterly, William, 2003. "Fractionalization," Scholarly Articles 4553003, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  16. Jerzmanowski, Michal, 2006. "Empirics of hills, plateaus, mountains and plains: A Markov-switching approach to growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 357-385, December.
  17. Richard B. Freeman & David L. Lindauer, 1999. "Why Not Africa?," NBER Working Papers 6942, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Frankel, Jeffrey, 2004. "On the Renminbi: The Choice between Adjustment under a Fixed Exchange Rate and Adustment under a Flexible Rate," Working Paper Series rwp04-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  19. repec:imf:imfpdp:9806 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Raghuram G. Rajan, 2006. "Competitive Rent Preservation, Reform Paralysis, and the Persistence of Underdevelopment," NBER Working Papers 12093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Jonathan David Ostry & Andrew Berg & Jeromin Zettelmeyer, 2008. "What Makes Growth Sustained?," IMF Working Papers 08/59, International Monetary Fund.
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