In This Review

The Quality of Growth in Africa
The Quality of Growth in Africa
Edited by Ravi Kanbur, Akbar Noman, and Joseph E. Stiglitz
Columbia University Press, 2019, 480 pp

This solid collection of essays assesses sub-Saharan Africa’s economic performance during the last two decades. Recent growth has neither delivered adequate improvements in individual welfare nor produced more dynamism in African economies. The book’s best chapters carefully parse and interpret the recent growth record and its achievements. High commodity prices have played a big role in the region’s overall growth. Political instability helps explain the persistence of economic volatility. Although economic growth has had a real (if limited) impact on reducing poverty, it has also contributed to a rise in inequality. The authors lament the poor quality of the available data. One abiding puzzle remains Africa’s persistently high unemployment rates and the seeming failure of economic growth to produce more high-quality jobs, a problem several chapters link to the limited development of export-oriented manufacturing sectors in the region. The essays are weaker in their prescriptions; it may be right to call for more considered industrial policies, for example, but that suggestion is too vague and aspirational to be useful.