In This Review

The Asian Aspiration: Why and How Africa Should Emulate Asia—and What It Should Avoid
The Asian Aspiration: Why and How Africa Should Emulate Asia—and What It Should Avoid
By Greg Mills, Olusegun Obasanjo, Hailemariam Desalegn, and Emily van der Merwe
Hurst, 2020, 256 pp.

Unlike most of the recent books vaunting the economic success of East Asia relative to Africa, this one does not limit its Asian examples to China, South Korea, and Taiwan; the authors also discuss poorer countries, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam, whose history and past economic policy failures make their recent successes more instructive for African countries. The authors review the record of private-sector, export-led growth in ten Asian countries and distill lessons for African states. Governments, they argue, should seek to create inclusive leadership, improve their countries’ educational systems, invest in infrastructure, and open up their economies to foreign direct investment. These reasonable prescriptions are not new, but they might nonetheless be considered controversial among too many African elites. The authors recognize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution; the particular strategy and sequence of reforms will vary in each country. They also argue explicitly that Africa should diverge from the Asian example by avoiding the authoritarian proclivities of many Asian countries and by ensuring that economic growth doesn’t lead to tremendous environmental destruction.