Growth and institutions in African development

Augustin K. Fosu


More is known about the African development experience than ever before, due mainly to the sustained research effort over many years. The extant literature has offered a large set of explanations of why African growth and development generally appears to have historically lagged behind that of other regions of the developing world (Sachs and Warner 1997; Collier and Gunning 1999; Azam et al. 2002; Ndulu et al. 2008a, 2008b). These explanations include: conflicts; inadequate levels and poor use of foreign aid; bad policy environments; poorly performing institutions; limited export supply response capacities; a lack of physical infrastructure; poor political leadership and corruption; a lack of fiscal discipline; low levels of human capital; drought and other adverse climatic problems; brain and talent drains; ineffective structural adjustment programs; limited membership in international networks; and inadequate levels of foreign direct investment. The United Nations University World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER) project ‘African Development: Myths and Realities’ has sought to focus on a subset of these explanations, in an attempt to distil ‘myths’ and ‘realities’ in the light of current knowledge. The present volume focuses on two related subject areas: growth and institutions.

In this chapter, I first present evidence on how African countries as a whole have performed on growth and institutions during post-independence. Next is information on trends in development outcomes in the region. Finally, I present an overview of the chapters covered in the current book. The coverage of the book strives to provide a comprehensive analysis of how Africa’s development may have been enhanced or undermined, with specific reference to growth and institutions. By so doing, the book is able to draw important lessons for the future.

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