Morten Jerven Morten Jerven

Inclusive Growth in Africa: Measurement, Causes and Consequences

That was the name of the conference in Helsinki, organized by UNU-WIDER.  All in all an underwhelming experience. I understand that we are a bit excited about growth in Africa, but maybe the title of the conference should have been:  Inclusive growth in Africa? (with a question mark). I saw no empirical evidence that made the case that growth really is inclusive. Despite the subtitle of the conference, as far as I can see there was only one serious paper on measurement. The very interesting paper by Justin Sandefur and Amanda Glassman. I did contribute with a  paper. Still a draft,  it  urges caution drawing sweeping conclusions on a) growth b) poverty and c) how they relate (inequality). The evidence is very spotty, we got very little reliable data on the last decade. Statements on direction of poverty and inequality in Africa at the moment is not relying on data on the big countries. There is more data on richer countries than poor so trends are driven by small good performing countries – like Ghana.

Two most exciting discoveries.

First. Martin Ravillion has written a 114 page long essay on ‘the idea of antipoverty policy‘. He has managed not to cite J. Ferguson or R. Chambers.  Moreover, and remember that this was a keynote on a conference on Africa and Poverty – he not consulted John Iliffe’s book on the African poor. I wonder whether this approach to poverty is so disciplinary narrow and Europe based by design or accident.

The second. I asked Erik Thorbecke (who gave the second keynote: the anatomy of inclusive growth in sub-Saharan Africa) why he was comfortable quoting Sala-i-Martin and Pinkovskyi as an authority on poverty reduction Africa – when their estimates are relying on national accounts data and a biased sample of  poverty data. He replied that Sala-i-Martin and Pinkovskyi do not rely on national accounts data. Really? According to themselves, on page 3: “We use national accounts purchasing-power-parity (PPP)-adjusted GDP data from Penn World Tables, Mark 6.2.” Thorbecke used data from 16 villages in Ethiopia to show that in places with high poverty, poverty has reduced. Then he concluded that growth was inclusive. Thank you.

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