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African economies learn from mistakes: Paul Collier in discussion

Posted by: Emily McManus

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Casson at the TEDPrize.org blog (get the RSS feed) points us toward this cover story in the May/June Boston Review: “Is It Africa’s Turn?

Reacting to recent economic data from Africa — showing some growth and progress across the continent — economist Edward Miguel writes: “Economic growth rates are at historic highs and democratization appears finally to be taking root. The question emerges: Will Africa be the world’s next development miracle?

Nine other activists, economists, and political scientists offer commentary on Miguel’s thesis. Economist Paul Collier (watch his 2008 TEDTalk) makes an elegant point — that aside from the growth due to democratization and commodities booms, there’s a deeper process going on in some African economies of learning from what doesn’t work:

There is a process at work that does not depend on democracy and is so simple that analysts generally miss it: learning from mistakes. Since 1970 African societies have accumulated a huge stock of experience in how not to manage an economy. For example, from the mid-1970s until the mid-1980s Tanzania adopted regulatory policies that proved to be ruinous. The knowledge they gained through failure is valuable. Tanzania is now one of the best-managed of all Africa’s economies.

The full package of stories offers a rich set of perspectives on African economies. Read it online here >>