Why did economists spend two decades explaining something that never happened ?

For the past two decades, mainstream economists who study African economic growth have been trying to explain something that never happened. Economists have focused almost exclusively on one question: Why has economic growth failed in Africa?

You can read the motivation for my book in a post I wrote for African Arguments here. I have discussed the book on two podcasts – with Russel Roberts on Econtalk here, and with Owen Barder on Development drums here.

In the podcast and the book I say that the bottom line is that there is no bottom billion. The graph below should make that case quite clear. Mainstream economists ignored growth in the 1960s and 1970s, and disregarded recent growth, and have sought to explain a phenomena that only partly holds true in the 1980s.  That’s the motivation for chapter 1 in the book. In chapter two I show how the stylized fact of ‘chronic failure’ made the basis for a literature that simply focused on explaining ‘why nations fail‘. In chapter three I show that it is better to approach economic growth in Africa as recurring rather than failed, and in chapter four I show how scholars and institutions continue to get their analysis of ‘Africa Rising’ wrong, because they are not doing their homework when it comes to questioning the data and the data sources.Capture

 

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