Africa Essay - Why has Africa grown so slowly since 1945...

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Why has Africa grown so slowly since 1945? Although the World Bank's chief economist predicted in 1967 that most African countries would "surpass a 7 percent growth rate", Africa's economic history since that year has largely fit the classical definition of tragedy (Levine, Easterly). While other developing regions such as South Asia experienced accelerated growth in the period from 1960-2000, Africa's GDP per capita growth had stagnated and was a mere 0.1% per annum for that period (Collier 2006; 1) . By 1992, Africa's per capita income (PPP) was approximately that of Western Europe's in 1820 and three-fourths of the top 20 poorest countries were in Africa (Bloom & Sachs 1998; 208-210). In this essay, I contend that Africa's distinctive physical and human geography has shaped its economic opportunities and in turn, have resulted in only minimal growth since 1945. In addition to these inherent endowments of the region, I affirm that the policies chosen by African governments in the post-World War II era, particularly towards agriculture and farmers, have also had deleterious effects and inhibited economic growth. Africa's growth has been unusually constrained by its natural attributes and geographical disadvantages. Although agriculture represents up to 60-75% of the total economy in some countries, much of Africa is semiarid, soil quality is poor, and since the 1960s there has been a deteriorating trend in rainfall to the region (C & G; 72, UNEP GEO 2006). Because of the risks of malaria and other diseases that thrive along coastal areas (killing from 1-3 million people per annum), nearly 40% of the African population have settled in the interior/landlocked countries, resulting in the lowest population density for any region in the world at twenty-five persons per square kilometer as compared with 148 persons in Asia (G&S 1998, BS 241). Landlocked and highly-dispersed populations have, in turn, reduced growth for Africa by drastically increasing transport costs and inhibiting trade. According to 1995 World Bank estimates, for example, the cost of shipping a twenty-foot container from Senegal to landlocked Mali (1000 km) was equivalent to shipping the same container from Singapore to the Netherlands (17000 km) (bloom sacs 240). Such high transport costs have also largely frustrated any hope of trade linkages and keep the inland market too small to "support a refined division of labor" (239 bs). Indeed, Limao and Veneables (2001) find that an African landlocked economy on average has 50% higher transportation costs and 60% less trade volumes than a typical coastal economy (L/V). Additionally, the highly populated
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