The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations
The African Growth and Opportunity Act
and Economic Growth in Sub-Saharan
by James S. Guseh and Emmanuel O. Oritsejafor
ince most sub-Saharan African countries gained independence from colonial rule
in the 1960s and 1970s, achieving economic growth and development has been a
central objective of governments in the region, as well as international donor
organizations. The Organization of African Unity—now the African Union—was
established (among other initiatives) to promote development at the economic,
social, and cultural levels, and to foster the integration of African economies.
order to address specific regional concerns, organizations such as the Economic
Community of West African States, East African Community, and Southern African
Development Community, were also established. At the same time, several
international organizations, including the United Nations, African Development
Bank, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund, expressed their commitment
to improving economic conditions in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) through billions of
dollars worth of funding and various forms of policy consultation. In addition to the
support from these international organizations, governments of many developed
countries have also provided vast amounts of development assistance.
Despite the numerous institutions and substantial resources devoted to the
SSA, success has been scattered and slow. Figure 1 presents
economic growth trends in the region from 1960–2002. The average growth rate of
per capita income was 2.6 percent in the 1960s, but declined to a modest rate of 0.8
percent in the 1970s. Growth was then negative for the next 15 years, until the mid-
1990s. Then there was a modest recovery, reaching 3.1 percent around 2004. These
figures highlight the sluggish long-term economic growth that has plagued the region
and resulted in poverty, unemployment, and income inequality—issues that are
central to development. In this region, the incidence of poverty and the rate of
unemployment are among the highest in the world.
Although income inequality
declined substantially between the 1960s and 1980s, it is still high relative to other
regions, such as Eastern Europe, South Asia, East Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East
and North Africa.
Only in Latin America did income inequality surpass that of SSA.
James S. Guseh
is a professor in the Department of Public Administration at North Carolina
Emmanuel O. Oritsejafor
is an associate professor in the Department of
Political Science at North Carolina Central University.