William Easterly
Economist; Profesoor of Economics, New York University

What does Africa need?

To embed this video, copy this code:

Africa needs home-grown solutions.

William Easterly

William Easterly is Professor of Economics at New York University, joint with Africa House, and Co-Director of the NYU Development Research Institute. He is also a non-resident Fellow of the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C. Easterly received his Ph.D. in Economics at MIT and spent sixteen years as a Research Economist at the World Bank. He is the author of The White Mans Burden: How the Wests Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (Penguin, 2006), The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (MIT, 2001) and over 50 published articles. Easterly's areas of expertise include the determinants of long-run economic growth and the effectiveness of foreign aid. He has worked in most areas of the developing world, but most notably in Africa, Latin America, and Russia. Easterly is an associate editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Economic Growth, and of the Journal of Development Economics.


Well there’s a lot of complicated limiting factors that Africans have had to struggle with since independence. Now the colonial . . . The legacy of the slave trade and the colonial error was very bad for Africa. There’s a lot of violence involved in that by Europeans not by Africans. At independence these artificial states were created out of no where that did not have any previous sort of national identification, national identity. And so Africa has done not so bad for a continent that was created under such inauspicious circumstances. Some economic historians have compared them recently to Latin America which was created under similar conditions early in the 19th century, early in the 1800s. Also rather artificial nations at first, and Latin America. And Latin America also had a half century of war, and poverty, and not much growth. And then eventually it got it’s act together, and now has had much more growth and much more escape from poverty where now only 10 percent of the population of Latin America is in poverty, whereas 50 percent of the population in Africa is in poverty. So homegrown economic development does happen. It does happen everywhere sooner or later. Some countries are unlucky; but the answers have to be homegrown. They cannot be parachuted in by experts. Success in escaping poverty everywhere always has been homegrown, not driven by expert advice by outsiders.Well you know there’s certainly tremendous humanitarianism needs in Africa, and there are rich people in the west who want to help. So there should be a market there that there are people in need, and there are rich people who want to help. There should be a sort of philanthropy market that does close, that does clear eventually, and rich people’s money does make it through to alleviate some of these humanitarian needs. I think the only reason that hasn’t happened is because we’ve been stuck in this sort of Jeff Sacks, big plan, just spend more government World Bank money and the problem is solved. If instead we had much more accountable agencies that were much more accountable for whether they got the infant’s that were getting dehydrated . . . whether they got them re-hydration kits; whether they got the children who are about to get measles get vaccinated from measles; whether they got the children who are malnourished nutritional supplements . . . if they were held accountable for results like this, then I think actually rich people’s money could do some good to alleviate some of these humanitarian tragedies in Africa until homegrown developments come along. But I don’t think the west is going to achieve the end of poverty in Africa like Jeff Sacks does. I think Africans are going achieve the end of poverty in a homegrown way. Africans are going to save themselves. It’s not going to be Jeff Sacks that saves Africa. It’s not going to be Bono that saves Africa. It’s not going to be Bob Geldof that’s going to save Africa. It’s going to be Africans that save Africa.

Recorded On: 7/6/07