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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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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For Africa, Good Policies Bring Good Prospects


Antoinette SayehBy Antoinette M. Sayeh

(Version in Français)

Once again, the latest review of growth prospects for sub-Saharan Africa shows that the region’s economy is in strong health. Growth in the region is set to pick up to 5½ percent in 2014 compared to 4.9 percent last year (see Chart 1). My view is that this growth momentum will continue over the medium term if countries rise to new challenges and manage their economies as dexterously as they have over the past decade or so.

So what explains this continued strong growth performance? Apart from good macroeconomic policies in the region, the growth has been underpinned by investment in infrastructure, mining, and strong agricultural output. And favorable global tailwinds—high demand for commodities and low interest rates—have played a major supporting role.

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If China Sneezes, Africa Can Now Catch a Cold


By Paulo Drummond and Estelle Xue Liu

(Version in  中文)

Growing links with China have supported economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. But the burgeoning commercial and financial ties between the developing subcontinent and the world’s second-biggest economy carry risks as well. These links also expose sub-Saharan African countries to potentially negative spillovers from China if the Asian giant’s growth slows or the composition of its demand changes.

The old aphorism “If America sneezes, the world catches a cold” referred to the U.S. economy’s role as a locomotive for the global economy, but it can now apply to any symbiotic relationship between a dominant economy and its clients. China has become a major development partner of sub-Saharan Africa. It is now the subcontinent’s largest single trading partner and a key investor and provider of aid.

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Mali – At the Dawn of a New Year


MD's Updated HeadshotBy Christine Lagarde

(Version in Français)

My second stop on this trip to Africa, after Kenya, was Mali—a country that is facing an extraordinarily difficult transition: from restoring political stability to securing economic stability—from crisis to recovery.

Having gone through massive turmoil in 2012, Mali is emerging successfully, thanks to the perseverance and fortitude of its people. Parliamentary and presidential elections have been held, and the newly elected government has put forth a new economic program aimed at increasing growth and reducing poverty.

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A New Frontier for Kenya and Africa


MD's Updated Headshot By Christine Lagarde

For yet a third year I have kept my tradition of starting the New Year with a visit to Sub-Saharan Africa—a region that truly offers great promise! As the world economy has remained focused on the crisis of the advanced economies, Africa has quietly forged ahead with strong growth led by a vibrant private sector and surging foreign investment. Over the past decade Sub-Saharan Africa has posted growth averaging 5.6 percent a year.

The countries of East Africa have done especially well. So what better place to begin my travels this year than in Kenya, which has emerged as one of the region’s “frontier economies”—countries whose recent performance is propelling them toward middle-income status.

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Africa: Second Fastest-Growing Region in the World


Antoinette SayehBy Antoinette M. Sayeh 

Sub-Saharan Africa is the second fastest-growing region of the world today, trailing only developing Asia.  This is remarkable compared to the current complicated state of the global economy, with Europe still struggling and the United States slowly on the mend.

In 2012, Sub-Saharan Africa maintained solid growth, with output growth at 5 percent on average. The factors that have supported the region through the Great Recession—strong investment, favorable commodity prices, and generally prudent macroeconomic management—continued to be at play.

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Capital Flows to the Final Frontier


By Antoinette M. Sayeh

(Version in Français)

Sub-Saharan Africa’s “frontier markets”—the likes of Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, and Zambia—were seemingly the destination of choice for an increasing amount of capital flows before the global financial crisis. Improving economic prospects in these countries was a big factor, but frankly, so too was a global economy awash with liquidity.

Then the crisis hit. And capital—particularly in the form of portfolio flows—was quick to flee these countries as was the case for so many other economies.

Fast forward to 2011. Capital flows are coming back to the frontier, but in dribs and drabs. Continue reading

Confessions of a Dismal Scientist—Africa’s Resilience


By Abebe Aemro Selassie

(Version in Français)

Like many economists, I tend to fear the worst. I have witnessed phenomenal changes for the better in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 20 odd years. Part of me still worries that this trajectory will not endure. But, the more I see of the region’s economic performance and outlook, the more I’m changing my tune.

Old anxieties set aside

Until my latest source for anxiety took hold a few months ago (more on this in a moment), I’d worried about the impact of the global financial crisis on sub-Saharan Africa. The crisis hit just as many countries in the region were starting to enjoy a hard-earned period of economic growth, their best since at least the 1970s. I did not want this to be derailed by the crisis. Continue reading

Raising Government Revenue in Africa: A Road out of Poverty


By Mark Plant

(Version in Français. Listen to the podcast in English or Français.)

Governments in Africa have a prime objective—to reduce poverty. To improve living standards and create jobs, they need to provide their citizens with better health care, better education, more infrastructure. They need to build hospitals, schools, and to pay doctors, nurses, teachers.

All this costs money. How to pay for this—in a way that is both fair and efficient—is a question that all governments face.

There are limits to how much a government can receive as grants from donors or borrow from donors or the private sector. So raising tax revenues is a necessary element for governments to spend on providing more of these essential services and, in turn, reduce poverty. Continue reading

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