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Is investment in Africa too low or too high : macro and micro evidence

  • Devarajan, Shantayanan
  • Easterley, William R.
  • Pack, Howard

The authors investigate the relationship between weak growth performance and low investment rates in Africa. The cross-country evidence suggests no direct relationship. The positive and significant coefficient on private investment appears to be driven by Botswana's presence in the sample. Allowing for the endogeneity of private investment, controlling for policy, and positing a nonlinear relationship make no difference to the conclusion. Higher investment in Africa would not by itself produce faster GDP growth. Africa's low investment and growth rates seem to be symptoms of underlying factors. To investigate those factors and to correct for some of the problems with cross-country analysis, the authors undertook a case study of manufacturing investment in Tanzania. They tried to identify why output per worker declined while capital per worker increased. Some of the usual suspects--such as shifts from high- to low-productivity subsectors, the presence of state-owned enterprises, or poor polices--did not play a significant role in this decline. Instead, low capacity utilization (possibly the by-product of poor policies) and constraints on absorptive capacity for skill acquisition seem to be critical factors. If Tanzania is not atypical,the low productivity of investment in Africa was the result of a combination of factors that occurred simultaneously, not any single factor. What does this tell us? First, we should be more careful about calling for an investment boom so that Africa can resume growth. Unless some or all of the underlying problems are addressed, the results may be disappointing. We should also be more circumspect about Africa's low savings rate; it may be low because returns to investment were so low. The relatively high level of capital flight from Africa may have been a level rational response to the lack of investment oportunities at home. Second, there is probably no single key to unlocking investment and GDP growth in Africa. All of the factors contributing to low productivity should be addressed simultaneously.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2519.

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Date of creation: 31 Jan 2001
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2519
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  1. Easterly, W & Levine, R, 1996. "Africa's Growth Tragedy : Policies and Ethnic Divisions," Papers 536, Harvard - Institute for International Development.
  2. Pritchett, Lant, 1996. "Where has all the education gone?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1581, The World Bank.
  3. Paul Collier & Jan Willem Gunning, 1997. "Explaining African economic performance," CSAE Working Paper Series 1997-02.2, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  4. Peter Klenow & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 1997. "The Neoclassical Revival in Growth Economics: Has It Gone Too Far?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 73-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Bruno, Michael & Easterly, William, 1995. "Inflation crises and long-run growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1517, The World Bank.
  6. Anke E. Hoeffler, 2000. "The Augmented Solow Model and the African Growth Debate," CID Working Papers 36, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
  7. Dhaneshwar Ghura & Anupam Basu & Evangelos A. Calamitsis, 1999. "Adjustment and Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa," IMF Working Papers 99/51, International Monetary Fund.
  8. Young, Alwyn, 1995. "The Tyranny of Numbers: Confronting the Statistical Realities of the East Asian Growth Experience," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 641-80, August.
  9. De Long, J Bradford & Summers, Lawrence H, 1991. "Equipment Investment and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(2), pages 445-502, May.
  10. Levine, Ross & Renelt, David, 1991. "A sensitivity analysis of cross-country growth regressions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 609, The World Bank.
  11. Devarajan, Shantayanan & Swaroop, Vinaya & Heng-fu, Zou, 1996. "The composition of public expenditure and economic growth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2-3), pages 313-344, April.
  12. Dollar, David & Easterly, William, 1999. "The Search for the Key: Aid, Investment and Policies in Africa," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 8(4), pages 546-77, December.
  13. Dhaneshwar Ghura & Michael T. Hadjimichael, 1995. "Public Policies and Private Savings and Investment in Sub-Saharan Africa; An Empirical Investigation," IMF Working Papers 95/19, International Monetary Fund.
  14. Easterly, William, 1999. "The ghost of financing gap: testing the growth model used in the international financial institutions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 423-438, December.
  15. Dhaneshwar Ghura & Michael T. Hadjimichael, 1996. "Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 43(3), pages 605-634, September.
  16. Oshikoya, Temitope W, 1994. "Macroeconomic Determinants of Domestic Private Investment in Africa: An Empirical Analysis," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(3), pages 573-96, April.
  17. 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.
  18. Khan, Mohsin S & Kumar, Manmohan S, 1997. "Public and Private Investment and the Growth Process in Developing Countries," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 59(1), pages 69-88, February.
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