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On My Wish List for the Next Administration: A US Africa Policy Worthy of Africa

Precisely as Africa is rising on the radar screens of investors and security types, it seems to be falling off the US foreign policy map. With the exception of Governor Romney’s mention of Mali (twice!) in the third debate, Africa hardly featured at all. That’s a shame, since Africa is both a growing opportunity and will become a greater threat if neglected. I’ve been deeply disappointed to see the United States reduce its engagement with the continent under the current administration, losing ground on the progress made under Presidents Clinton and Bush. Regardless of who wins on November 6, the scope for doing better—and more without more money—is obvious.

The following originally appeared on October 1 as “Missing in Africa” on ForeignAffairs.com.

First Edition of the Oxford Companion to the Economics of Africa Features Essays by CGD Staff and Board

This is a joint post with Julie Walz

Since the mid-nineties, many African nations have ushered in dramatic economic and political changes. But growth in other countries is stalled due conflict, repressive regimes, and lack of infrastructure. A new publication captures the diversity across Africa, using an economic lens to evaluate the key issues affecting Africa’s ability to grow and develop. The Oxford Companion to the Economics of Africa is a compilation of 100 essays on key issues and topics across the continent. It includes contributions from young African researchers, longtime researchers on Africa and four Nobel Laureates. Authors were given the freedom to write their own perspectives, thus the result is not a literature review but an engaging snapshot of concerns and possibilities across the continent. With 48 country perspectives (from Algeria to Zimbabwe) and 53 thematic essays, the book rejects a one-size-fits-all approach yet recognizes that there are continent-wide opportunities and challenges. As the first work of its kind, it is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the field, from graduate students to policymakers.

You’ve Heard of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9. Here’s Nigeria’s 20-20-20 (And This One Might Fly)

Lately I’ve been thinking Nigeria should be a little bit more like, of all places, Iran. Yes, Iran. And maybe Alaska.  Here’s how.

Africa’s most populous nation has been a massive underperformer since independence. It’s earned hundreds of billions of dollars from petroleum exports, but the average Nigerian has little to show for it. At least three decades were lost; average incomes in the mid-2000s were the same as in the mid-1970s. More recently, the economic data has been brighter. And there is always hope that the country has finally turned a corner.

A Diamond in the Rough? Africa’s Newest Central Bank Opens in an Unexpected Location

This is a joint post with Ross Thuotte.

Last week, lawmakers in Somaliland (Somalia's northern, semi-autonomous region) reportedly established Somaliland’s first central bank. The measure will pave the way for foreign commercial banks to start operating in Somaliland by 2013, providing much-needed financing support for Somaliland’s private sector businesses. Simultaneously, the donor community (represented by multilateral institutions and both Danish and US aid agencies) has expressed a strong interest in Somaliland. Two questions arise: How can international donors further support Somaliland’s businesses and what can they learn from the parliament’s new central bank?

A Bold New Idea for Infrastructure in Africa

This is a joint post with Julie Walz.

It is no secret that Africa faces an infrastructure crisis. The low-income economies of the region have fewer miles of paved roads and fewer modern freight and passenger-transport systems than any other region in the world. Electricity is also highly unreliable; businesses in many African countries suffer from power outages on more than half of the days they work per year. Inadequate infrastructure is cited by most African firms as the single biggest obstacle to doing business.