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Africa’s Economic Growth Continues, Despite Ongoing Pessimism

640x-1I come bearing good news about Africa. The continent is finally starting to emerge.

Pessimism about Africa is so pervasive that people don’t even have to say it out loud — it’s just assumed. When development economists such as Paul Collier write books with titles like “The Bottom Billion,” they remember to mention a handful of countries in Central Asia, but you know the book will be almost entirely about Africa. As for the reason for Africa’s benighted situation, explanations range from the legacy of exploitative colonialism to the resource curse to endemic war to the health effects of malaria. Often, in discussions about Africa, there is an undercurrent of racism.

But whatever the reasons for Africa’s past woes, the facts are undeniable. Africa’s situation is changing fast, and for the better.

The best collection of encouraging Africa trends comes courtesy of Max Roser, an Oxford economist whose monumental Web project, Our World In Data, has a page devoted to Africa. Roser is a whiz with candy-colored maps, using side-by-side contrasts to show how the Africa of recent decades is barely recognizable as the dysfunctional continent of the 1980s and 1990s. I will take the liberty of showing a few of those maps here — these and many more can be found on Roser’s page, along with links to download the data.

The most striking positive trend in Africa is the rise in education.


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