A brown bag lunch with Africa development expert Steve Radelet
One great perk about working for ONE is getting to go to the brown bag lunches. It’s a time where staff members and friends of ONE come together, gather ‘round the big table in the Nigeria conference room and listen to special presentations on topics ranging from Microsoft Excel to the World Bank’s International Development Association.
Today, we had a very special guest: Steve Radelet, senior adviser on development to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He came to our office to give us an inside look at his new book, “Emerging Africa: How 17 Countries Are Leading the Way” and talk about some success stories from the continent.
In “Emerging Africa,” Mr. Radelet argues that we should recognize the important differences between Africa’s emerging countries and stop treating them like a monolithic entity. “They don’t do that for Asia,” he said, “So why do it for Africa?”
When we lump Africa together, he said, it tends to negate the positive stories of progress and growth – and people already have a negative perception of Africa to begin with (remember the Economist’s bleak cover line, “The Hopeless Continent” a while ago?). That’s why we need to break Africa into groups and take note of the 17 countries that have “defied expectations”– those that have exceeded and sustained a 2 percent economic growth per capita since 1995.
From his research on these 17 countries, he observed five changes that are helping to decrease poverty and improve governance:
1. More democratic and accountable governments
2. More sensible economic policies
3. The end of the debt crisis and changing relationships with donors
4. Spread of new technologies
5. Emergence of a new generation of business leaders, activists and policymakers
It was an honor to have Mr. Radelet at our D.C. office and it was a great opportunity to learn more about Africa on a personal level. And not just for me, but our whole team, too – almost 10 of our staff members asked him a question at the end of his talk.
Be sure to check out his book at the Center for Global Development, where he was a former senior fellow.