Thursday, January 27, 2011

God, I Hope Not: "Will Sudan referendum inspire secessionists elsewhere in Africa?"

The Christian Science Monitor posed an interesting question the other day:
If South Sudan gets independence, will it encourage splits in other African countries? A number of voices are suggesting that could happen as the vote takes place in the South. Could Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Congo, Angola and others break up too? Colonel Gaddafi described a divided Sudan as “the beginning of the crack in Africa’s map” … Would that be a good or bad thing for the continent?
I can't speak as to whether it would be a good thing in terms of politics or civil or human rights, but I'm pretty sure that it would be a Very Bad Thing economically.

Paul Collier, in his excellent book The Bottom Billion, tries to explain why some countries (primarily in Africa and Central Asia) remain mired in poverty, even as the rest of the developing world is undergoing relatively rapid growth. According to Collier, these countries typically suffer from one (or more) of the following development traps:

  • The Conflict Trap - civil wars (with an estimated average cost of $64bn each) or coups.
  • The Natural Resource Trap - having to rely on natural resources which can stifle other economic activity and lead to bad governance and coups/conflict.
  • Landlocked with Bad Neighbours - poor landlocked countries with poor neighbours find it almost impossible to tap into world economic growth.
  • Bad Governance in a Small Country - terrible governance and policies can destroy an economy with alarming speed.
One of the hindrances to African development is that there are already too many landlocked countries in Africa, which is stunting the continent's growth (landlocked countries are highlighted in green):

Further splitting up African countries would only create more countries that find it difficult to survive and thrive in today's world. If anything, the landlocked African countries should merge with other countries that have access to oceans - though I think that's impossible as well.

So, if further splitting up African countries will probably make their economic situation even worse, what can be done to make things better?

1 comment:

  1. I want to agree with you. Splitting the world up into smaller pieces will not aid international cooperation. If we have to work together, we have to unite in our efforts. That even means erasing our political borders. What I think we could do is to first break down the barriers to free international trade. Trade with all of these tariffs are hindering economic growth for those who can't afford it. African countries should be given aid in order to jumpstart their economies. Let's see what natural resources Africa has to offer and let them sell it to use. That will surely spring up economic growth. Just a suggestion.