James Traub on Africa’s Mixed Hopes

James Traub sees a few reasons, based on economic growth, for optimism in Africa.
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James Traub:  The glimmer of hope for Africa is sort of like the good things and the bad things are racing each other to see which gets the upper hand.  The good thing is that you have more countries that have a decent sustained growth rate 4, 5, 6, 7% and I think that’s actually connected to democracy.  Most of those countries are countries that have democratized.  The really high growth countries there are the autocracies that have oil like Angola which grows at like 20% a year.  So that’s the positive stuff.  At the same time, these are really weak states.  And so, when they face a crisis like AIDS, they don’t have the public health structure to do anything about it more effectively.  The landlocked countries in Africa almost never have an internal transportation system that allows them to bring goods to market at affordable prices.  So these infrastructure problems that almost all African countries have are just, they are huge and they can wind up being powerful enough to counteract all those positive forces, so there are some reasons for optimism but really tempered optimism.