In our quest to understand sustainable development, and right now economic development we’ve focused on the modern era of economic growth We saw how the Industrial Revolution began in England and spread to all the world. Or, one should say, almost all the world because there are some places that still, even to this day, lack some of the basics, and lack some of the on-going economic growth that Indeed has reached almost all of the planet.
We’ve been undertaking a differential diagnosis to understand how those, moving ripples of economic development have reached some places in the world, and failed to reach others. We’ve explored the role of the poverty trap. We’ve explored the role of geography. The role of culture. The role of, politics. Let’s put the pieces together. By focusing on those remaining areas in the world that are still stuck. Below the threshold of self sustaining growth. And, as we’ve used the idea of passing that threshold, looking at the $2,000 per person, per year threshold. As a marker for us. When we look at the map of global development. We see that those countries shown in red. On this map are the ones that, as of today, are still below that takeoff level. What do we see? We see that the remaining regions are, mainly, tropical Africa. And then, the number of land locked countries, Afganistan. Napal, Mongolia, Louse, and a few other parts of the world, and of course with out question we have to regard sub saharan Africa as the greatest challenge of development, the place in the world still with the highest poverty Rates, and with the biggest challenges in meeting basic needs.
The good news is that in recent years especially since the year 2000, economic growth in sub Sahara Africa has picked up. There’s definitely progress, major advances in some of the key areas. Of disease control. Improved access to education, building infrastructre. But we’re still not yet in a sitatuion where there is self sustaining, rapid and dynamic growth, though one feels very much that it’s within reach. Let’s put our differential diagnosis. Perspective, therefore, on sub-Saharan Africa, and ask what we learn by taking that multidimensional view of a region to see what it implies for the priorities for economic and sustainable development. Africa has many distinct structural characteristics and many of these strustral charectarcistics are indeed sructeral problems for econmic development, if you look at the region of peverty in Africe That is below the Sahara Desert but above the southernmost countries. One is defining essentially the region of the tropics of Africa. Between the Tropic of Cancer at 23 Degrees north latitude in the tropic of Capricorn, and 23 degrees south latitude. And we know that the African tropics have many distinctive features that are relevant for economic development. Disease burden we’ve seen is very heavily concentrated in the tropic whether it’s malaria or other so-called vector-borne diseases, or worm infections that debilitate people, and that hold back whole societies. We’ve seen that.
Agriculture can be very difficult in tropical conditions. Often water scarcity, with the very high temperatures, drought propensity, soil nutrient depletion can be extremely pernicious in the tropical context. So this is one feature that needs to be addressed. Nothing impossible about these challenges because diseases like malaria are fully controllable, but they need to be controlled. We’ve seen that Africa has a distinctive feature of the most land-locked countries of any continent in the world. Roughly one in three African countries. Is land locked. 15 out of the 49 countries of Sub Saharan Africa. That’s a big problem. Why is that? Well, part of the reason is the colonial legacy. Remember that nature doesn’t draw national boundaries. Politicians do. And when the politicians divided up, Africa they divided it up into little parcels often cutting natural ecological areas dividing ethnic groups by artificial boundaries leaving a legacy. Of great difficulty making it hard for populations even to reach coasts. In many parts of Africa, the coastal physical environment is rather hostile. And in East Africa.
The eastern coast tends to be very dry. The trade winds come up to the coast from the east. They do not provide precipitation right on the coast, but as the highlands in the east coast carry those trade winds into higher altitudes, Then the rain is distributed in the interior, what’s called orographic rain fall, or rain fall that is caused by the uplift of the mountains, in this case, the highlands of East Africa. This means that the high population densities in East Africa are not at the cost but are in landlocked interior countries like Rwanda, for example, or Uganda. Where there is much more rainfall than one would find in their port of Mombasa, Kenya, which is in a, a much drier region. So, the distant from the ports has to do with history, it has to do with political boundaries It has to do, some historians think with the long legacy of even slave trade which caused populations in their self defense to move more into the interior. It has to do with the fact of rainfall being more propitious and able to support food production Often away from the coast and in the interior of the continent. We know that in many, many, other ways, the colonial legacy has played very difficult role. Have a look at the map of European colonial rule In Africa as of 1914. The first thing you see is the entire continent with the exception of of Ethiopia, was colonized. Africa was divided among the European powers, and the story of how it was divided is a rather shocking story. Actually, Africa was one of the last continents to succumb to European imperial rule. That may seem strange because Africa was very poor throughout history, therefore very vulnerable.
As exemplified by the slave trade. So why wasn’t it colonized earlier? Europeans attempting to move to the interior of Africa in the earlier parts of the 19th century to colonize, succumbed to malaria and other tropical diseases, the disease burden actually prevented europe from colonizing africa until the latter part of the 19th century. Then what happened? Well, you could perhaps describe it to tonic water. Tonic water is water with quinine. But quinine is a natural preventative or curative to malaria, and when quinine was discovered and then mass-produced by the British and then by the other imperial powers, That enabled Europe to dominate Africa through military means. The Europeans were brutal vis a vis the Africans, but strangely polite and diplomatic among themselves. They sat down at the conference table at the famous Berlin Conference. Of 1884 and 1885 and said gentelemen, because of course was only gentelmen around the table, lets deivide africa in a very civilized way, civilized fro us without any civilaty vis a vis the fricans, and by 1914 you had a map of Africa that was divided in all of these arbitrary political divisions. This has left a legacy of wrong borders of high land lockedness of European domination over many of Africa’s natural resources. So that the resource earnings have been extracted and end up in tax havens around the world rather than the treasury coffers of Africa itself, the European powers did not provide education. Indeed there’s a documentary record showing we don’t want to educate the local population that would be a political Risk for us. And so when African governments achieved independence, often there were just a handful of people with a high school, much less a university, education. The infrastructure, physically, that the European powers left behind was also strangely deficient.
Have a look at, a comparison of the map of the Indian railway system, built largely during the British colonial period in India, with the map of Africa’s railway system built largely during the period of colonial rule. In India you see a full grid. And that was because a unified colonial power, Great Britain, created a unified infrastructure, partly to extract India’s natural resources, including its cotton. As inputs to the cotton mills of England. In Africa, where the conditions were harsher and more difficult and the political divisions existed, the European colonial powers did not sit down together after the conference in Berlin and say, Now let’s construct a railway network. They each one constructed just a line from their port to the diamond mine or to the gold mine or to the plantation, and so the rail systems in Africa is not a full grid, but is just spurs that go to a few locations. And this has much greater burden for Africa. When India had its agricultural revolutions, so-called Green Revolution of the 1960s, this railway line played a crucial role in bringing fertilizer into the interior and bringing grain from the interior to the national economy. But in Africa, the rail can’t sere that purpose it doesn’t exist. It still has to be built. Even in the 21st century. So the legacies of colonial rule in Africa have been very, very tough. This isn’t an explanation of everything My point, again and again, is, don’t take a single factor. You cannot blame it just on colonial rule. We’ve seen, you can’t blame it just on, quote, corruption, because in many parts of Africa, the levels of corruption are comparable to far richer countries. In other parts of the world. You can’t blame it just on culture, though culture matters. It matters for gender, it matters for fertility. It matters for commitment to education. You can’t blame it just on geography, but geography surely has player a role in the burden of disease, in the vulnerabilities of agriculture. Of the high transport costs. Differential diagnosis doesn’t necessarily give you a simple answer. Simple answers are often highly simplistic answers. We need accurate answers, and the differential diagnosis helps with accuracy. It identifies several of the challenges that need to be addressed, even though Africa And, other countries still stuck in poverty. May face added burdens. They also have the opportunities for technological breakthroughs. Unimaginable, until recently. Now, when you go, even to the remote African villages across the continent. Maybe with few exceptions, but as a general rule, mobile phone coverage is there, broadband is on the way, information technology, is already transforming these very low income villages very low income regions Bringing in knowledge, market information, data empowerment and the potential for breakthroughs in help, in education, in business development. In other words, when we make the differential diagnosis, we identified the political and the cultural and the geographic. Phenomenon when we identified that heritages of the colonial period and the shortfalls of the infastructure. We are not overcome by pessimism but we are motivated with an agenda. An agenda which is targeted. A specific, a balance of public and private investment At areas for social mobilization, public awareness, the role of parents to help their children to make breakthroughs as well, that is the key for sustainable development.