Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Overlooking the Obvious in Africa


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Collier and Gunning review approximately forty factors that have been offered as possible explanations for poor growth in sub-Saharan Africa. The authors conclude that “domestic policies largely unrelated to trade” may be the major factors holding back growth now. This comment, “Overlooking the Obvious in Africa,” contends that Collier and Gunning appear reluctant to identify the importance of institutional factors – especially economic freedom – in slowing economic growth in Africa. And, despite their listing many possible explanations, they curtly dismiss one important one – the role that foreign aid may be playing in perpetuating poor policies. Thus, the paper accepts all manner of lame theories while ignoring those that have stood the test of time. As a result, it offers little guidance on a critical development issue.