Be Smart About South Africa

Africa has a Long Way to Go if it is to Break Free of the Resource Curse

The United Nations defines a country as dependent on commodities if they are more than three-fifths of its physical exports. Fully 83% of African countries meet that threshold, up from 77% a decade ago. Some depend on produce such as tea, but most rely on mining or on pumping oil. When commodities crashed in 2015, foreign direct investment (fdi) and growth tumbled and have yet to fully recover. Broad averages obscure some of the progress that has been made to diversify economies. Over the past decade resources have become less important to gdp. The share of commodities in goods exports from the continent as a whole has fallen, too. And in countries such as Botswana and Malawi, services have grown strongly. Even manufacturing is rebounding. One basic principle, especially for things like oil and minerals that will run out, is to turn riches in the ground into other sources of wealth, such as roads or an educated population. The World Bank now argues that, even if countries cannot diversify their exports, they will still be making progress if they diversify their sources of wealth.


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