In his book, Emerging Africa: How 17 Countries are Leading the Way, Steven Radelet explores the major factors responsible for the continent’s strides towards progress. In my previous post, I discussed the five major factors that Radelet identified as signs of hope and signals of change in Africa. One of those critical components was a new wave of African idealists and leaders, a generation that Radelet believes will initiate the significant changes that have long been needed in the countries across the continent. These leaders are present in the realm of politics, business, civil rights, and bureaucracies. Coined by George Ayittey, the Ghanian scholar, “the Cheetah generation,” is a major point of discussion for Radelet (pg. 126). Rather than being characterized by the typical demographics of age, gender or ethnicity, this Cheetah generation is more so defined by a desire for change. He goes on to say, “they are Africa’s new generation, a nebulous yet palpable group across the continent that is seeking to redefine Africa through democracy, transparency, and a dynamic private sector, and by fostering strong connections with each other and with the rest of the world” (pg. 126). The desire to see concrete and meaningful change in Africa is what unites these thinkers and leaders, and Radelet believes that they are the key to progress. Their ideals are a stark contrast to those of the previous “hippo generation,” which Ayietty categorized as the slow-moving post-colonialist leaders who ruled with fear and clung to power (pg. 127) The “Cheetah generation” is concerned with “transparency, accountability, good governance, respect for basic human rights, and private sector economic opportunities (pg. 127). It’s these unique perspectives and initiatives that Africa has needed, but hasn’t seen. They are the future of Africa.
Authors Banerjee and Duflo, in their acclaimed book Poor Economics, discuss the validity and prevalence of the nutrition-based poverty trap. Their main argument focuses on analyzes the habits and food consumption tendencies of the impoverished across the world. It is revealed that while yes, a poor person is defined as someone without the means to eat enough, that starvation is actually a result of food not effectively being shared across the world (pg. 26). The whole nutrition-based poverty trap theory is rooted in the belief that because the poor can’t afford to eat enough, they are then less productive and subsequently stay poor. However, when given the opportunity to purchase more food, and more nutritious food, the authors identified a surprising fact. The poor actually tend to spend that extra money on “better-tasting, more expensive,” food (pg. 23). They are making a conscious decision not to spend money on more nutritious food that would, ideally, make them better workers and help them out of poverty. But Banerjee and Duflo don’t believe that the solution lies in providing more food subsidies or more income to the poor. Rather, focusing on two key groups of the population, pregnant mothers and children, will vastly improve the outcomes in these impoverished nations. Unborn babies and young children would greatly benefit from better nutrition, and yield significantly higher incomes.
An interesting point that was brought up in the reading was the topic of witch hunts. I didn’t even realize that this was an event occurring in today’s world, but the reasons behind them were different than what we would think of when referring back to the Salem Witch trials. In impoverished nations, witch hunts commonly occur when resources are particularly scarce. It is seen as reasonable to sacrifice a few people so that the others have enough to eat, survive and produce (pg. 28). It is a notion that is hard to even consider occurring in a nation like the U.S., and was quite startling to me.
(After years of civil strife, the desire for peace in Liberia was at a high. Image from LiberianWomenDemonstrating.jpg)
The country of Liberia has long faced internal conflict concerning political stability and security. In 1989 began a drawn out civil war that had devastating impacts on the country, the collapsing of systems, and the abuse of human rights (UNDP). For years after, the country has faced political instability and uncertainty, struggling to recover its economy. The UN stepped in after multiple peace talks. Dubbed the United Nations Mission in Liberia, foreign assistance aimed to help stabilize the country and prepare it for better elections and aiding human rights (UNDP). Liberia elected its first ever woman president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who strived to reverse the country’s past and rebuild. The country has largely relied on foreign assistance to help quell the civil conflict as well as reboot the economy. While the country is rich in resources that signal potential for a better economy, its health system is not where it needs to be, and the country was hit by the Ebola Virus in 2014, which resulted in great loss of life (UNDP). While greatly impacted by the outbreak, overall, increasing political stability and competence, as well as cooperation with NGO’s and foreign aid, Liberia is making strides in the right direction to get its economy stronger and recover from the civil conflict that has plagued the country for years.