Ten years into the continent's quiet revolution, lessons for the developing world
A construction worker walks on scaffolding on a tunnel project under construction near the Kenyan capital, Nairobi / Reuters
The poverty mafia once controlled the development debate in Africa. No longer.
The old approach was about how to prevent Africa from getting poorer. All development goals were essentially negative, as experts wallowed in risk-aversion and promoted various doomsday scenarios of an Africa with a rapidly growing population.
The new thinking on development is to share Africa's wealth more equitably. That's right: Africa's wealth.
In 2000, when I first visited Sub-Saharan Africa, to report on the civil war in Burundi, the international community was preparing itself for a new round of development failures. Wealth was a dirty word. The influential economist Paul Collier even suggested that African countries were better off poor because wealth -- especially resources that could be sold on international markets -- inevitably fueled civil wars.
Yet at that same moment when leading development thinkers saw the most modest of futures for the sub-Saharan as a region, a diverse group of determined African technocrats -- from Ghana to Uganda, Zambia to Kenya, South Africa to Rwanda -- joined forces with technologically savvy, globally oriented capitalists to launch a quiet revolution in development thinking. In time, their changes helped lead to Africa's dramatically improved economic performance, and greater confidence in their ideas.