Africa on the brink of a take off


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Dear friends,

Today we are trying something new.

I wanted to share with you the reasons why I think we can be optimistic about Africa's development prospects, but rather than writing something up, I thought of using video.

Please, share your feedback, not only on whether you agree that Africa is on the right track, but on the video itself. If you like it, I would like to do more of this short video "Development Talks" with the readers of this blog.

Let me know what you think.



Shanta Devarajan

Teaching Professor of the Practice Chair, International Development Concentration, Georgetown University

S Joye
March 15, 2011

This is one of the best reports on where Africa could be headed. I love the fact you discussed the transportation issues, as well as absentee teachers. Great points overlooked (or perhaps not known) by other writers. You have helped me in my work greatly. Also, you're very handsome as well..the camera likes you lol..
Seriously, great work..thanks for sharing.

March 15, 2011

Very informative. I am definitely excited about the prospects you highlight in your video and believe that the growing number of SMEs/SEOs will also play a fumdamental role in enabling economic growth across the continent.

I agree with Dani: you might want to break the videos into 5 minute segments to keep your audience engaged (as difficult as that might be).

March 15, 2011

Thank you for the video. The explanations about Africa future is very good. I am sure that Africa can develop and increase its economy and society, and i am agree with Shanta Devarajan about the importance of the circle (polity stability, grew economy, and polity support). We are several small businessmen and small businesswomen. We are civil engineers, specialist in infrastructures (water suply, sewage, highway, railway, ports, etc), and we would like to help and colaborate in Africa develoment and improvement.

March 15, 2011

It was a clear and helpful presentation but I would suggest taking on one narrow topic/story at a time, rather than trying to explain how a number of issues come together to explain a wide phenomena. 12+ minutes is too long for this kind of medium. Your passion does come through though. Thanks!

olugbenga adesanya
March 15, 2011

I am persuaded. What happens to poor leadership in various nations in Africa that are bereft of growth ideas?

March 15, 2011

I really liked the video. The way you explained the issues using visuals and graphs helped me to understand why Africa is doing better. I was clear!! which is so important. Great job!

Bonaventure Fandohan
March 15, 2011

Good job.
This presentation is clear, very organized and helpful. It will be a good idea to send this video to African’s leaders. It will be an opportunity for some of them to know what their colleagues are doing better and others to continue what they have begun. I am impressed by the World Bank African team’s accomplishments.
Thank you.

March 17, 2011

Powerfull message. Indeed we can be optimistic about Africa's development prospects. What we need to see are real time contracts for the delivery of these development deficits accross the continent. Thank you

amao abiodun
March 16, 2011

the prospect of change to african in the nearest future will be at is optimality stage that the country will be better off rather than worst off.according to paretto optimality,all we need to do is to fucus on welfarism policies that will the under developed country to be able to adjust it poverty gap in the nearest future. the analysis is very alright.

Rogers Dhliwayo
March 17, 2011

This is brilliant Shanta. It's a very optimistic assessment of Africa's prospects. One can only hope that the policy reform will gather momentum and that with growth prospects there will be timely fiscal retrenchments to ensure fiscal sustainability

March 18, 2011

Thank you for your feedback. We are exploring ways to have a smaller size video file optimized for low-bandwith. In the meantime, if you would like us to mail you a copy of the video in a DVD, please send us a message using the link below.

March 17, 2011

It's difficult to watch the video in countries with low band width. Make it easily downloadable for many in Africa to watch

March 21, 2011

Dear Shanta,

This is a great idea, although I second the request for a transcript for those of us with slow internet speeds or who would just like to read through the text and refer to it later.

One small gripe: the use of graphs could use tightening up. My main complaint is the unequal x-axis intervals in the child mortality graph near the beginning of the presentation. The time points are 1990, 2000, and then 2006, which obviously makes the drop from 1990 to just after 2000 look very dramatic. Of course, this drop is dramatic and the good progress should be highlighted! But the time intervals should be equally spaced to aid interpretation of the change over time.

Other things are a bit odd, such as showing 13 series for primary completion rates but only labelling 7 of them. If there isn't space for all 13 labels, then just show the 7 that are labelled, perhaps with a '(weighted) average' bar too, so we can see just how much better Mozambique has done than the average SSA country.

Finally, you should think more about whether a graphic is needed at all. I'm not sure a line graph with 2 data points, showing the decline in GDP from 2008 to 2009 adds anything to your talk.

Minor gripes aside, I eagerly await your next video!
Best regards,

March 19, 2011

Thanks a lot for the update on the continent pulse ... This is really time for Africa. We also hope to see more imporvement in the political and social landscape ... God luck, lovely continent ...

Franklin Nnebe
March 20, 2011

Hi Shanta, nice idea for internet video which while a bit long has great pointers. But for those without broadband speed is it possible to make a transcript with the charts available as well?

About your video I like your focus on infrastructure. Infrastructure creates markets and stimulates them and this along with policies, is reponsible for a big jump in growth rates whether its in banking, transport, or telecommunications.

I have a few questions for you though on two other aspects to growth in Africa that came to mind.

First is the catch-up factor stemming from the lost decade of the 1990s. Countries populations grew by at least 50% while both public and private sector investment was minimal. Is this what is partly behind the unusual growth in Africa in this last decade?

Second is the urbanization factor. African urbanization rates have doubled in a decade. Has this made it easier to deliver better standards of living? Has it raised disposable income? What part do African cities play in the growth story?

I look forward to reading your reply on these topics.

March 22, 2011

Nice job, Shanta.

lodewijk Smets
March 24, 2011


Raj Raina
March 24, 2011

Hi Shanta,

I enjoyed the clip very much and the graphs. Here are some things that would make it even more enjoyable and instructive for me:
1. Video from the country in the background when you talk about the situation and when graphs are not being used. (maybe clips taken by WB staff in the field office)
2. Shorter clips. Say 5 to 6 mins max.
3. Innovative or different methods to present information/data

I am looking forward to your visit at Columbia University.


March 31, 2011

Great presentation, love the punchline at the end - recognizing that these are indeed government failures, but they can be fixed and that a take off in poverty reduction in Africa can/will happen.

Nathan Van Dusen
April 25, 2011

This is a spectacular summary of the macroeconomic trends Shanta. I think that you're placing too much emphasis on the role of government and policy in Africa's transformation, however. Certainly, the quality of the enabling environment provided by governments through investment in infrastructure and rationalization of bureaucratic procedures has a significant impact on growth. But the private sector plays an equally critical role. At that level, we've seen innovation, pursuit of new markets, and new forms of private sector organization driving growth. It's impossible to completely separate these two necessary ingredients to growth, but it would be a mistake to ascribe too much importance to one or the other.