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


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Governance and Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa

Article Citation

Ndulu, Benno J., and Stephen A. O'Connell. 1999. "Governance and Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 13(3): 41-66.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.13.3.41


Real income per head in much of sub-Saharan Africa grew rapidly in the 1960s, but faltered following the first OPEC oil price shock in 1973-74, and then stagnated or fell from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Africa also saw a broad wave of authoritarian rule sweep the continent in the 1960s and early 1970s. Since 1990, however, the African political landscape has experienced significant changes, many in the direction of greater pluralism and democracy. Moreover, where civil strife has been avoided, Africa has seen a broad tendency towards rapid growth for several years after 1995. This sequence of events suggests that political economy may offer useful perspectives on Africa's growth record over the last several decades. We begin with a summary of Africa's growth patterns and the evolution of African political regimes. We then examine models of authoritarian rule for insights into the conditions under which elites may sacrifice the general interest to extract rents and retain power, or in which leaders may find ways of making growth-enhancing policy politically acceptable. It would be premature to conclude that Africa's political reforms of the 1990s have helped to generate economic progress. However, we do believe that the increase in political pluralism, in combination with greater unity among African aid donors, bodes well for a continuation of Africa's growth recovery.

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Ndulu, Benno J. (World Bank and U Oxford)
O'Connell, Stephen A. (Swarthmore College and U Oxford)

JEL Classifications

O17: Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
O47: Measurement of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence


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