BPEA | 2004 No. 1

Ending Africa’s Poverty Trap

Discussants: Michael Kremer and
Michael Kremer
Michael Kremer Gates Professor of Developing Societies - Department of Economics at Harvard University
Stephen A. O’Connell

2004, No. 1

Africa’s development crisis is unique. Not only is Africa the poorest
region in the world, but it was also the only major developing region with
negative growth in income per capita during 1980–2000 (table 1). Some
African countries grew during the 1990s, but for the most part this growth
recovered ground lost during the 1980s. Moreover, Africa’s health conditions
are by far the worst on the planet. The AIDS pandemic is wreaking
havoc, as is the resurgence of malaria due to rising drug resistance and
the lack of effective public health systems. Africa’s population continues
to soar, adding ecological stresses to the economic strains. Policy-based
development lending to Africa over the past twenty years, known as structural
adjustment lending, did not solve the problem. A heavy debt burden
is evidenced by the 155 Paris Club restructurings of African countries’
debt between 1980 and 2001, much more than for any other region. In
general, Africa remains mired in poverty and debt.