In This Review

Why Africa is Poor: And What Africans Can Do About It
Why Africa is Poor: And What Africans Can Do About It
By Greg Mills
Penguin Global, 2010, 432 pp

Mills' answer to the question posed by the title of his book is that Africa’s political leaders have chosen not to undertake the policies that would bring about economic growth. A South African and longtime observer of Africa, Mills appears to have traveled to just about every imaginable country in the continent and the rest of the developing world to build up an impressive array of examples for his argument that low-income countries can prosper when their leaders implement policies that promote private-sector-led investment. With mordant anecdotes of out-of-the-way factories, failed schemes, and wrongheaded government interventions, he describes African economies as undermined by dreadful infrastructure, low human capital, and in particular counterproductive policies governments use to put up endless obstacles to private investors. The book unabashedly advocates a pro-business point of view to escape the current morass. Some readers will no doubt argue that the search for private profit cannot address the region’s most intractable problems, which probably require public action rather than market solutions. But as a contribution to literature that too often absolves African governments for the region’s mediocre performance, the book’s argument that they are in large part responsible is refreshing. As is the book’s ultimate optimism about the region, since Mills clearly believes these same leaders could choose to make Africa rich.