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Africa in Transition

- February 23, 2018
Can the sub-Saharan region overcome its challenges?
Featured Report

Strong economic growth, driven by resource-rich Angola, Nigeria and South Africa, has helped sub-Saharan Africa shed its image as a war-torn region plagued by famine, disease and political volatility. In recent years, amid a surge in Chinese investment, a new “Africa Rising” narrative portrayed the region's 46 countries as making impressive economic progress, with a growing middle class and rising democratic aspirations. That narrative became less persuasive, however, after world commodity prices began to fall in 2014. In addition, some autocrats, while professing democratic ideals, have been suppressing human rights and clinging to power. Like the rest of the world, African countries face the long-term consequences of climate change, which could erode economic progress and the quality of life on the continent. And automated manufacturing technologies such as robotics pose a challenge to the labor force. Analysts say the next several years will pose a crucial test: Can African economies innovate quickly enough to deal with increasing urbanization, rapid population growth and a big gap between the rich and the poor?

Economics and Elections

Slow economic growth and leadership struggles plague some African countries.

Tensions and Crises

The political situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe are unsettled.

1800sEuropeans take control of most of the African continent.
1950s–1970sTurmoil ensues in some newly independent African countries, often complicated by proxy Cold War competition between the West and Soviet Union.
1980s–1990sSub-Saharan African countries liberalize their economic policies, but their economies generally contract in the face of a debt crisis.
2000–PresentSoaring commodity prices revive African economies, but the recovery begins to falter.

Does foreign aid reliably spur sustained economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa?


Steven Radelet
Donald F. McHenry Chair in Global Human Development; Director, Global Human Development Program, Georgetown University.


Ryan C. Briggs
Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Virginia Tech.


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