Moving On Up: The Growth Story of Frontier Economies


Min ZhuBy Min Zhu

(version in Español)

The growth story for frontier economies isn’t the same as China’s in the last two decades, or the United States a hundred years ago.  These fast growing, low-income countries have their own story, and it’s not what you might think.

In May of this year, I wrote about who they are and how they are different, and now I want to go into a bit more detail about how their economies have been on the rise and how they have moved themselves to the frontier.

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The First Wealth


Jeff Hayden altBy Jeff Hayden

“The first wealth is health,” American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1860.­

Emerson’s quote, cited by Harvard economist and health expert David E. Bloom in Finance and Development’s lead article, reminds us that good health is the foundation on which to build—a life, a community, an economy.­

Humanity has made great strides, developing vaccines and medical techniques that allow us to live longer, healthier lives. Other developments—such as increased access to clean water and sanitation—have helped beat back long-standing ills and pave the way for better health.

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It’s Unofficial!


DSC_7906By Sabina Bhatia 

I know it might sound odd, but I actually like the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings. I know the traffic snarls on Pennsylvania Avenue are terrible, Washington cabbies ruder than ever, lots of men in dark suits (and sadly, they are still mostly men), and there is the constant rush from meeting to meeting.

But beyond the long lines, long hours, cold coffee and the constant buzz of communiqués, press releases, and scores of official meetings, I find my place in the  rich and stimulating discussions among the non-official community.

This year, over 600 civil society organizations, including members of parliament, academics, and several youth and labor groups, came to the meetings. They deliberated, discussed and debated some thorny issues. The burning issues close to their hearts? Not that different from what officials are also debating.  Here is some of what I heard:

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In Mozambique—and In Africa—Rising Requires Resilience


Doris RossBy Doris Ross

Three months ago African leaders and policymakers assembled in Mozambique under an “Africa Rising” banner to assess the continent’s strong economic performance. But while the outlook for the continent remains strong, individual countries have faced problems and the uncertain global outlook continues to pose risks. Against this backdrop, what are the policies that Africa should pursue to sustain the positive momentum for the continent?

In reality, Africa Rising has never been about unbridled optimism; it has been a tale of strong growth tempered by serious challenges. And rising in economic terms is as much about sustaining expansion as about the dimensions of growth itself. The extended process of African development also requires increased resilience to shocks, and it is this resilience that may be tested by economic problems in some African nations.

Strong growth—and increased resilience—were the focus of the Africa Rising conference organized in May by the IMF and the government of Mozambique in Maputo. The nearly 1,000 officials, corporate executives, civil society representatives, and journalists who gathered for the two-day event discussed the difficult issues that must be addressed if Africa is to maintain its upward trajectory of the past two decades.

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How Low-Income Countries Can Diversify and Grow


By Chris Papageorgiou, Lisa Kolovich, and Sean Nolan 

(Version in Español)

Low-income countries have spent a lot of time thinking about how they can achieve faster growth, and we have done some research to help them. We found that pursuing export diversification is a gateway to higher growth for these economies. Using a newly constructed diversification toolkit, our empirical analysis shows that both the range and quality of the goods a country produces has a direct impact on growth 

Country trends 

Low-income countries have historically depended on a narrow range of primary products and few export markets for the bulk of their export earnings.

But export diversification is associated with higher per capita incomes, lower output volatility, and higher economic stability—relationships that can be tracked using our new publically available  dataset, which gives researchers and policymakers access to measures of export diversification and product quality for 178 countries from 1962-2010.

We have looked at two measures of export diversification and their impact on economic growth.  One measure captures diversification into new product lines, the other development of a more balanced mix of existing products.  Analysis using these measures shows that export diversification in low-income countries is indeed among the most effective drivers of economic growth.

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The New Frontier: Economies on the Rise


Min ZhuBy Min Zhu

(Version in 中文,FrançaisPortuguês, and Español)

There is a group of fast-growing low-income countries that are attracting international investor interest—frontier economies. Understanding who they are, how they are different, and how they have moved themselves to the frontier matters for the global economy because they combine huge potential with big risks. 

Get to know them  

The first thing to note is that some of these countries already have moved to the lower-middle income group. While a working definition of frontier economies is subject to further discussion, broadly speaking, these countries have been deepening their financial markets, such as Bangladesh, Kenya, Nigeria, Mozambique, and Vietnam.

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Targeted Policies Mean True Transformation in Africa


Antoinette SayehBy Antoinette M. Sayeh

In my many travels to sub-Saharan Africa, a frequent question on the lips of policymakers is the following: “Sure, we know that growth has not been inclusive enough and poverty remains high in most of our countries, but what exactly can we do to make growth more inclusive?” This is an important question that the latest edition of the Regional Economic Outlook for sub-Saharan Africa takes a stab at.

It is well known by now that growth in sub-Saharan Africa for the past 15 years or so has on average been quite strong. What is less well known perhaps is that a number of human development indicators such as infant and maternal mortality, primary school enrollment and completion rates, have also improved (see Chart 1).

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