Changing Perspective with a Changing Generation


1. Explain the meaning of a “Cheetah” and a “Big Man” also called the cheetah generation and the hippo generation? (Ch. 7 and 3) Explain how these terms refer to a different way of looking at democracy and civil society?

By the mid 1980s, nearly every country in sub-Saharan Africa was ruled by a dictator. This became known as the era of the “Big Man.” As countries reformed towards a more democratic society, many systems put more emphasis on the executive branch of government (thus the “Big Man”) and less on the judicial and legislative branches. So, there was an imbalance in the checks and balances system and dictatorship became more of the norm and Radelet states “democracy was rare.” Radelet also says “the strong political hand was matched by a strong economic hand.” There were major controls over the economy, through fixed interest and exchange rates, subsidizing programs favoring private businesses and so on. Now, countries are making changes toward a more accountable democracy. They are shifting away from the “Big Man” mentality and limiting presidential power through things like term limits and legislatures are asserting dominance in the policy making process.

The “Cheetah” generation is the so-called “new generation” who seeks to “redefine Africa through democracy, transparency, and a dynamic private sector and by fostering strong connections with each other and the rest of the world.” They are mostly young, comprised of both men and women, some well educated, others not. Together they are fighting for movement in the same direction. They want Africa to be seen as it’s own unique continent, not tied to nationalist ideas or bound by Western mandates. They are pushing for a more democratic society where civil rights are the standard. This is different from their past rulers, who had different ideas about governance. While the old rulers looked to the government to take steps toward reform, the “Cheetah” generation is putting the responsibility onto themselves.

2. How is nutrition a problem for the poor? Why do we need to rethink food policy?

One of the problems that Banerjee and Duflo outline is Poor Economics is that nutrition is a problem for the poor. They write that “the delivery of food aid on a massive scale is a logistical nightmare.” Some food gets lost and/or eaten by rats along the way. Another problem is that if poor people can’t afford to feed themselves, so therefore they’re less productive and can’t earn money to ever get out of the circle. Another problem is that some poor people don’t spend the small amount of money that they have on nutritious food, rather they spend it on tobacco, alcohol and festivals. Studies found that people spent money on food that wasn’t maximizing their caloric and micronutrient intake. Even more, they are spending money on “more-expensive” calories. We need to rethink food policy by thinking differently about what the problem is. Banerjee and Duflo think that simply providing more food is not a solution to the problem because poor people may not be making the smartest food choices. Instead, they suggest focusing efforts on children as well as poor mothers. These are the two groups they think will receive the most positive impact from efforts for better nutrition.

3. Why are witch hunts still occurring?

Witch hunts are still a fairly prominent practice in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is thought to be a way to conserve resources in villages that don’t have much. Often times older women living in the villages are seen as “unproductive mouths to feed” and are killed by others in the village or chased away as described by Banerjee and Duflo. It is most often performed when resources are extremely scarce.


4. Use the World Bank data website and report on the progress of the SDGs in your assigned country and region. Find other tools to explore the economic and political situation (PPP, GINI, etc.).

Burundi is a landlocked country located in East Africa. It has made great strives towards progress, especially since the 1960s. GDP has greatly increased, as it was recorded at $3.085 billion in 2015. Population has been steadily growing. Life expectancy has grown by nearly 15 years. Much of the focus of the SDGs in Burundi focus on women’s health. They committed to increases in midwives and midwife training, contraception and a focus on integrative reproductive health. All of these goals were categorized under SDG number 5, to achieve gender equality and to empower all women and girls.


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