Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Book Release: African Development

Event Title: African Development: Making Sense of the Issues and Actors
Sponsor: Center for Global Development
Location: Brookings Institute
Date: Wednesday, February 7th, 2007
Time: 10:00 – 12:00
Approximate Number of Attendees: 50
Intern Attending: Blake Dublin

Speakers: Todd Moss, Dr. Amadou Lamine Ba (Ambassador of Senegal), Thomas Callaghy, Nancy Birdsall

Todd Moss, a World Bank consultant and adviser to the chief economist in the African Region at the Center for Global Development, released his book entitled African Development: Making Sense of the Issues and Actors. The book is written for those who do not already carry an extensive knowledge of the region, but are interested in learning the groundwork in African development issues; it is a must for those preparing to work in the continent. African Development does not claim to provide answers to alleviate Africa’s impoverished nations, but offers a comprehensive introduction to the issues, actors, and institutions interacting across the diverse continent.

March 6th marked Ghana’s 50th anniversary for independence. As the first African independent country, the date merited an examination of the region’s progression. Post-colonial euphoria quickly gave way to disappointment, upon which international development arose to attempt to alleviate the continent’s woes. However, Africa’s economic progress after colonialism has been a global disappointment, and it must be admitted that little is still understood about turning economically poor societies into empowered ones. Moss says, “Africa is the graveyard for silver bullets,” and that the message of his book is that there is not and cannot be a single plan to “save Africa.”

While there is no clear solution to poverty, we have learned many lessons. A few of the many in Moss’s book include: vaccines work to save lives, inflation is bad for poverty, and while governments may be poor at managing some things like farms and small enterprises, they must be active in other sectors to provide muscle for far-reaching programs. The accessible read goes on to cover the history of the region since independence, its economic stagnation, and the role of local players as well as international trade, aid, and finance. Interspersed throughout are vivid sidebars acquainting the student with ten well-known "big men" and ten equally important but lesser known African actors. As a practical guide, there is even a section devoted to deciphering development’s myriad jargon and acronyms. Moss concluded that though development does not know the answers for Africa, more attention than ever before is currently focused on the region. With all of mankind’s unprecedented successes in the last century, there is plenty of hope for the future.

Ambassador Ba, along with praise for the book, offered additional points to consider. He is confident that Africa can and will develop, though it must be from within and on its terms. Countries must rely on each other, and only unity will bring about progress.
Finally, a sense of pride and urgency is needed in Africa to bring it on to the right path for economic growth. Mr. Callaghy, a long time African scholar and professor, noted the balance and humility of the book, and reiterated that we need to recognize that we do not know what to do in Africa. However, optimism is necessary, as Africa must progress.

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