NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Africa Compared To Asia

May 25, 1997

Africa has it all over East Asia in terms of natural resources. But it languishes as East Asia bounds forward. A number of theories are advanced to account for the differences.

  • South Korea, for example, has a per capita income of about $10,000 per year, while Congo stands at $150 per person.
  • Although most African countries have missed opportunities over the years, some are beginning to emulate Asian countries -- four African countries, Uganda, Angola, Lesotho and Malawi now enjoying growth rates of about 10 percent a year.
  • Uganda -- after experimenting with privatization and a stock market -- now has one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
  • Still, as a few areas in Africa are beginning to stir, the fact remains that per capita incomes grew about 11 times faster in East Asia than in sub-Saharan Africa in the years since 1965.

The East Asian "tigers" sooner or later adopted relatively open market-oriented policies emphasizing exports. The most successful countries there avoided socialism. National savings rates in Asia have been 30 percent of gross domestic product versus about 12 percent in Africa.

One reason Africans have not saved is the threat of confiscation, inflation and instability. Corruption has also drained the economic resources of many African states.

Nevertheless, progress is being made in a few African countries. So far, there are 16 stock markets on the African continent.

Source: Nicholas D. Kristof, "Why Africa Can Thrive Like Asia," New York Times, May 25, 1997.


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