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Africa's growth tragedy : a retrospective, 1960-89


  • Easterly, William
  • Levine, Ross


Africa's economic history since 1960 fits the classical definition of tragedy: potential unfulfilled with disastrous consequences. The authors use one mehthodology - cross-country regressions - to account for sub-Saharan Africa's growth performance over the past 30 years and to suggest policies to promote growth over the next 30 years. They statistically quantify the relationship between long-run growth and a wider array of factors than any previous study. They consider such standard variables as initial income to capture convergence effects, schooling, political stability and indicators of monetary, fiscal, trade, exchange rate, and financial sector policies. They also consider such new measures as infrastructure development, cultural diversity, and economic spillovers from neighbors'growth. Their analysis: 1) improves substantially on past attempts to account for the growth experience of sub-Saharan African countries; 2) shows that low school attainment, political instability, poorly developed financial systems, large black-market exchange-rate premia, large government deficits, and inadequate infrastructure are associated with slow growth; 3) finds that Africa's ethnic diversity tends to slow growth and reduce the likelihood of adopting good policies; 4) identifies spillovers of growth performance between neighboring countries. The spillover effects of growth have implications for policy strategy. Improving policies alone boosts growth substantially, but if neighboring countries act together, the effects on growth are much greater. Specifically, the results suggest that the effects of neighbor's adopting a policy change is 2.2 times greater than if a single country acted alone.

Suggested Citation

  • Easterly, William & Levine, Ross, 1995. "Africa's growth tragedy : a retrospective, 1960-89," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1503, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1503

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Aschauer, David Alan, 1989. "Is public expenditure productive?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 177-200, March.
    2. Alesina, Alberto & Tabellini, Guido, 1989. "External debt, capital flight and political risk," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3-4), pages 199-220, November.
    3. Khan, Mohsin S. & Reinhart, Carmen M., 1990. "Private investment and economic growth in developing countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 19-27, January.
    4. Carmen M. Reinhart & Sara Calvo, 1996. "Capital Flows to Latin America: Is There Evidence of Contagion Effects?," Peterson Institute Press: Chapters, in: Guillermo A. Calvo & Morris Goldstein & Eduard Hochreiter (ed.), Private Capital Flows to Emerging Markets After the Mexican Crisis, pages 151-171, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    5. Alesina, Alberto & Perotti, Roberto, 1994. "The Political Economy of Growth: A Critical Survey of the Recent Literature," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 8(3), pages 351-371, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. B.P. Zaaruka & J.W. Fedderke, 2011. "Measuring Institutions: Indicators of Political and Economic Institutions in Namibia: 1884 - 2008," Working Papers 236, Economic Research Southern Africa.
    2. Birba, Ousmane & Diagne, Abdoulaye, 2012. "Determinants of adoption of Internet in Africa: Case of 17 sub-Saharan countries," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 463-472.


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