African Poverty Essay

12700 Words Mar 2nd, 2014 51 Pages
Duncan Kennedy*
Abstract: African extreme poverty is probably a function (although not solely) of the balkanized post-colonial geopolitics of Africa. It is also probably a function (although not solely) of the income distribution generated by a typically perverse African political economy, through its effect on the allocation of resources to development. As between these two causes, the second is probably much the more important. This reinterpretation puts considerably more of the blame for African poverty on the Western great powers than does the “poverty trap” analytic that is a common contemporary way of thinking about the African economic situation.

INTRODUCTION This essay, which really is an essay rather than a
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Errors are mine alone. The author retains the copyright in this article and authorizes royalty-free reproduction for non-profit purposes, provided any such reproduction contains a customary legal citation to the Washington Law Review.




[Vol. 87:205

to break the vicious circle.1 My argument has four parts: In the first, I discuss the impact of the “balkanization” of sub-Saharan Africa on its economic development. I argue that although precise answers are impossible, it seems likely that balkanization has been a significant factor in the poor economic performance that has relegated about half the population to “extreme poverty” sixty years after the Western powers reluctantly acceded to African demands for independence from colonial rule. The second part of the essay argues that in the great majority of African states, the postindependence elites, under the strong influence if not outright control of the coalition of anti-communist Western great powers, put in place a form of political economy that precluded the massive allocation of surpluses to development that would have been necessary if Africa was to develop in a way that more rapidly reduced extreme poverty. The third part suggests that although economic theories of self-sustaining economic development are in disarray, the apparent take-off of the Chinese, Indian, and

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