Mad Libs: Africa Rising?

FP asked more than 60 experts to fill in the blanks on the state of politics in Africa and whether its much-touted economic rise is for real.



The background of improved macroeconomic policies. —Paul Collier • Much more sustainable than previous growth spurts because it is underpinned by better governance and economic management. —Pravin Gordhan • It is fragile and needs political stability, sustainability, and acceleration. —Callisto Madavo • It is not inexorable. Some governments will get it right, but some countries will be badly left behind. —Jennifer Cooke • Progress has been broad-based, covering both economic and social areas and a large number of countries. —Punam Chuhan—Pole • Social indicators are improving as robustly as economic indicators. —Wolfgang Fengler • The hugely positive, but fragile, performance of ex-rebel post-independence revolutionary movements in South Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda, Burkina Faso, and Rwanda in spurring growth and development. —Ishac Diwan • It’s been largely driven by a sustained period of high global commodity prices. Most African economies remain highly dependent on primary resource exports. —Richard Downie • It has a broader and stronger basis than simply the commodity super-cycle fueled by Chinese demand. —Chester Crocker  • Africa’s ties to global capital markets have never been particularly strong, so the credit contraction in rich countries had only minor impacts. —Douglas Gollin • It is based upon the growing African middle class. —Alex Vines • The extent that it is driven by local innovation, e.g., M-Pesa and small and medium enterprises. —Anushuya Gounden • No country has reached middle-income status without manufacturing. Where is the new manufacturing in Africa? —Richard Dowden • That from a low base and with growth relatively easy to achieve in enclaves, it looks a lot more impressive than it is. —Akwe Amosu • The key knowledge gap in this debate is that “people” and experts don’t understand where the numbers they are using come from and how poor the numbers are. —Morten Jerven • The extent to which the people of Africa themselves are making their voices increasingly more known and demanding more accountable and inclusive leadership. —Laurence Clarke • Sub-Saharan Africa is composed of 48 countries whose trajectories have diverged over the last 50 years. There are certainly continental trends, but these can often be empty generalizations. —Jeffrey HerbstIt is not a recent phenomena and actually started in the 1990s and accelerated in the 2000s when six major wars ended — Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Dem. Rep. of the Congo, north-south Sudan, Burundi. —Jendayi Frazer • This time, it’s for real. —John Hoddinott


It was less integrated with the global economy. —Ruchir Sharma • Its financial markets were largely isolated. —Todd Moss • The majority of its growth is due to domestic consumption and investment, not exports or natural resources. Africa’s labor force continues to expand, urbanization continues, and the number of households in the consuming class is rising. These factors were not affected by the global recession. —Susan LundOf improved economic management and governance, as well as lower debt and inflation levels.Pravin Gordhan • Improved governance has so far prevented policy syndromes of the past. —Augustin Fosu • The middle classes kept spending, and the demand from China barely dropped. —Richard Dowden • Its financial sector is less speculative than is the case on other continents. —Christopher Fomunyoh • It offered returns on investment that northern countries could not provide and opportunities for greenfield investments lacking in established markets. —Christopher Alden • Of a combination of better policies and strong Asian demand for African exports. —Deborah Brautigam • Its macro and trade policies were much better than they had been in the past. —Francis Teal • Governments have followed responsible fiscal policies for a decade and therefore had room to borrow in the 2009 global downturn. —Charles Robertson • Due to enhanced regionalism in Africa. —Louis Kasekende • Aside from petroleum, the continent was largely unconnected from the global marketplace. —Phillip Carter • Massive debt relief before 2007 created fiscal space and a savings cushion, sound economic policies, a shift of exports from Europe/USA toward the BRICS, and an effectively insulated banking system. —Gregor Binkert • Most African financial institutions, specifically commercial banks, were either prevented by domestic controls from engaging in many of the transactions (e.g., trading in perverse financial derivatives) that contributed significantly to the crisis or did not have the wherewithal to do so.John Mbaku • (i) It is less financially integrated with crisis countries; (ii) commodity prices remained high; and (iii) available buffers were used for countercyclical policies. —Amadou Sy


Marked by much fewer barriers to the movement of goods and people. —Mwangi Kimenyi • Similar as today, but there will be far greater economic and commercial integration. —Michael Lalor • Different. Current borders are a function of the colonial past, and economic trade may impact this. —Anushuya Gounden • Same as today, as most Africans identify with their countries of birth, even if they despise and disagree with current political leadership. —Christopher Fomunyoh • The same. The African Union will not allow redrawing of political borders as it considers them “sacrosanct.” —George Ayittey • The same as they are today. South Sudan’s independence in 2011 was an exception. —Richard Downie • Very similar, with the possible exception of the DRC and the Great Lakes area. —Neuma Grobbelaar • More or less the same juridically but irrelevant with respect to trade, labor mobility, and cross-border migration. —Anne Pitcher • There are likely to be further attempts at secession, notably in those countries which continue to underperform, including the Congo. —Greg Mills • Unchanged. —Yvonne Mhango, Francis Teal • Largely the same. —Jeffrey Herbst, Peter Lewis, Callisto Madavo (“No appetite for unscrambling the egg and the chaos that would follow.”)


Robert Mugabe. —John Asafu-Adjaye, Christopher Fomunyoh, Todd Moss • Robert Mugabe or Paul Biya. —Peter Lewis • Isaias Afewerki. —Callisto Madavo, Anne Pitcher (“Eritreans expected a peace dividend that never materialized after the war with Ethiopia ended and are becoming increasingly critical of the regime.”) • Isaias Afewerki or Yoweri Museveni. —Richard Dowden • Joseph Kabila. —Edward Miguel • Yahya Jammeh of Gambia. —Yvonne Mhango • Michel Djotodia (CAR). —Scott Taylor • Faure Gnassingbe. —Chester Crocker • There are several candidates, starting with the most likely: Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea, Omar el-Bashir of Sudan, Idriss Deby of Chad, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. —George Ayittey • The Swazi king. He may not fall, but he will lose a significant amount of his political power within a decade, as will Morocco’s king. —Charles RobertsonThe one who does not realize Africa now has a smarter, younger, better-educated, connected, and urbanized population that does not see power, authority, and governance the same way as before. —Carlos Lopes • Predicted by the Ibrahim Index as the one where economic, human, and political development get way out of balance. —Laurie Lee • Unexpected. African autocrats have become adept at defying expectations of imminent departure. —Jennifer Cooke • Among the last of a dying breed. —Michael Lalor • Your guess is as good as mine. —Witney Schneidman


A leading cause of its recent economic turnaround. —Edward Miguel • A good thing. However, to believe that there is an automatic or causal link between economic growth and democracy is naive. —Morten Jerven • Likely to continue evolving in fits and starts until there is a radial generational shift in political leadership. —Christopher Fomunyoh • Inevitable for all by the 2030s or 2040s except those countries with very high energy exports per capita. —Charles Robertson • Today more entrenched than was the case a decade or more ago. Pravin Gordhan • Slowly but surely becoming institutionalized in 10 to 12 better governed states, and the gap between winners and losers (in governance terms) will continue to grow. —Chester Crocker • Still in its infancy. —John Asafu-Adjaye • In its adolescence: exuberant, optimistic, but also fragile. —John Hoddinott • Pervasive. —Yvonne Mhango • On trial. The number of democracies in Africa increased from four in 1990 to 13 today. At this rate, it will take the 55 African countries over a century to become fully democratic by 2120. —George Ayittey • Becoming very Malaysian: a blend of authoritarianism and coercion, certainly norm coercion, but with reluctant though real provision for political choice and hugely increasing opportunities for expression. —Stephen Chan • Evolving like in every country calling itself a democracy. —Jendayi Frazer • Resilient yet flawed. Limited accountability and weak performance is a problem for most electoral regimes. —Peter Lewis • Palpable, but it would be a mistake to think it is about elections and constitutional stability alone. —Carlos Lopes • Widespread but work in progress. Consolidating this process through better institutions is more difficult than simply staging an election. —Greg Mills • Messy but inevitable. —Todd Moss • Severely compromised by fragmented party systems on the one hand and the persistence of authoritarian practices by entrenched ruling parties on the other. —Anne Pitcher • Under pressure. —Alex Vines • Right now, a story of one step forward, two steps back. —Richard DownieTwo steps forward, one step back. —Akwe Amosu • Unfinished business. —Paul Collier

Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer is the Europe editor at Foreign Policy. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and Forbes, among other places. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and master’s degrees from Peking University and the London School of Economics. The P.Q. stands for Ping-Quon.

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