When I started my first blog on ending poverty in South Asia, my good friend Dani Rodrik, while announcing the blog , added “it does begin to feel awfully crowded in here…”. So why am I starting yet another economist’s blog?
The short answer is that I have changed jobs. I am now the chief economist of the World Bank’s Africa Region, so it would be difficult to sustain the South Asia blog (which will however continue under new leadership).
The longer answer is that the experience with the South Asia blog, as well as my impressions and previous research on Africa, have taught me that a forum for discussing ideas about economic policy reform in Africa is extraordinarily useful, if not essential, in the quest to end poverty in Africa. For the first time in 30 years, Sub-Saharan Africa is growing at the same rate as the developing world (save India and China). For more, see the book “Africa at a Turning Point?”. If African countries can sustain this growth and make it more widely shared, the dream of a continent free of poverty can become a reality. What will it take? First, an understanding of what went right and what went wrong with Africa’s economic performance. Second, a consensus around what needs to be done going forward. Both will require a vigorous public debate. Change does not occur by the finance minister waking up one morning and deciding to reform import tariffs. It also will not occur by someone from the World Bank whispering in the finance minister’s ear. It emerges from an open and evidence-based debate among Africans and those concerned about Africa, so that the policies are tailored to country circumstances and, more importantly, so that the decision maker finds it in his or her interest to undertake the reform. These debates are going on already. For instance, I have been fortunate to be associated with one forum, the African Economic Research Consortium, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this month. This blog is aimed at nourishing that debate.