Africa is a puzzle to economists. Why is it so unsuccessful in partaking of development? In short, is there an African curse? This paper argues the answer is 'no'. Africa?s dismal economic performance is neither due to colonization nor to a different effect of the usual variables impacting on growth. It presents a rare combination of exogenous handicaps: poor soils, infectious diseases, small economies, landlockedness, declining rainfall, hasty independence, high dependency ratios, terms of trade losses. Dysfunctional governance is however the main factor, due to an exceptionally harmful post– independence history. This generated not only growth traps but a pervasive lack of trust too, including of Africans in themselves, a sort of ethical trap. Still, there are flames of hope and more Africans want a deeper change. They might prevail if democracy gives them a voice and a chance.
Working Paper 04–04, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, September 2004.