Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 13 No. 3 (Summer 1999)


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Why Has Africa Grown Slowly?

Article Citation

Collier, Paul, and Jan Willem Gunning. 1999. "Why Has Africa Grown Slowly?" Journal of Economic Perspectives, 13(3): 3-22.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.13.3.3


We distinguish between policy and "destiny" explanations of Africa's slow growth during the past three decades. Policies were poor: high export taxation and inefficient public service delivery, and "destiny" was adverse: landlocked, tropical locations, and terms of trade deterioration. During the 1990s, Africa's economic policies improved, although with considerable variation both between countries and between policies: trade and exchange rate policies improved much more than service delivery. Thus, the differing explanations of past slow growth imply different predictions for growth in the coming decade. We argue that poor public economic services are likely to be the binding constraint.

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Collier, Paul (World Bank)
Gunning, Jan Willem (U Oxford)

JEL Classifications

O55: Economywide Country Studies: Africa
O10: Economic Development: General
O47: Measurement of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence


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