Are we asking the Right Questions? An analysis of the

Interrogating the contentious
concept of growth: Are we asking
the right questions?
An analysis of two fast-growing
African economies
Liam Fox
University of Toronto
I. ‘Growth’ and ‘Development’
II. The missing piece: Political histories and
colonial legacies
III. Concluding remarks: Is uneven development
better than no development?
The ‘Afro-Optimists’
“Richer than most [African] countries, carefully
groomed for independence, with trained cadres
exceeding those of far larger countries, without
racial minority problems, having inherited a
good and expanding educational system, Ghana
is regarded as having the resources, manpower
and moral and spiritual qualities to set the pace
and tone of political development in all Africa”
(Apter 1972:337).
The ‘Afro-Pessimists’
• Dependency-underdevelopment school
– World Systems Theory (Immanuel Wallerstein)
– Dependency Theory (Latin American Structuralist
and American Marxist schools)
• Neoliberal school (e.g., Anne Krueger)
A return of growth optimism?
• Rwanda:
– 2001-2013 +8.1% GDP
– 2001-2011 -14% poverty rate
– Inequality (Gini) from 0.52 (2005) to 0.49 (2011)
• Ghana:
– “Stable and mature” democracy for 20 years
– 50th-60th percentile World Wide Governance rating
– +5.5% GDP growth (2013)
A return of growth optimism?
Real GDP growth rates (2012)
• Ghana: +6%
• Rwanda: +8.8%
Human Development Index (HDI, 2011)
• Ghana: 0.558 (135th globally)
• Rwanda: 0.434 (167th globally)
Source: UNDP (2011)
Neoliberal Development
• Richard Sandbrook: market liberalization as
“pragmatic neoliberalism” (2000:1079).
• “…to abstract these attractive features from
power relations by focusing on individual
actors, as Sen does, offers a false promise to
the poor and excluded” (2000:1079).
Political histories and colonial legacies
• Early independence and Nkrumah; ensuing long-lasting
political turmoil
• Structural adjustment and the return of (some) stability
• ‘Poster-child’ of the SAP?
• Arbitrary, ill-fitting colonial institutions (Englebert 2000)
• British indirect rule and fragile institutions (Acemoglu 2001)
• Ethnic conflicts precipitated by colonial institutions (ethnic
divisions: e.g., identity cards)
• Rwandan renaissance, or ‘growth at any cost’?
What is to be done?
Persistent issues
• Development: the Amartya Sen approach
• Development and the HDI?
• “Kicking away the ladder” (Chang 2002)
• Proposition: BWIs not “the social actors
likely to advance the empowerment of
the poor” (Ferguson 1994:181)
• Foucault: Change comes only “when
critique has been played out in the real,
not when reformers have realized their
ideas” (1981:13).
Concluding remarks: is uneven
growth better than no growth at