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African Review of Economics and Finance

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Africa’s Failed Economic Development Trajectory: A Critique

F Obeng-Odoom

Abstract


Crisis narratives and populist representations of the woes of Africa abound. Civil society organisations do not always help, as their activities continue to sustain a particularly negative image of Africa. ‘Revisionists’ have tried to counter this state of affairs by providing ‘success stories’ about Africa. Thus, the literature on the state of affairs in Africa is reduced to a bifurcation of ‘failure’ and ‘success’ without resolving the fundamental question of whether there is something wrong with economic development in Africa. This paper tries to move that state of knowledge forward by providing a systematic analysis of what development analysts and practitioners mean by ‘economic development’, while exploring how adequate are the indices for measuring the idea. Framing the question in those terms reveals a complex ensemble of findings among which are the contested nature of economic development, its indicators, and predictions – findings which have substantial implications for judging whether there is something wrong with economic development in Africa.

Keywords: Africa, Socio-economic Indicators, Progress, Development



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