In a recent speech given at Harvard University, World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said sub-Saharan Africa is “on the verge of joining the ranks of the BRICs” because of the region’s rapid economic growth. The managing director’s notes on Africa’s strong growth prospects and promising effects of reforms undertaken by African countries are very welcome, according to Shanta Devarajan, the bank’s chief economist for Africa. Devarajan, however, disagrees with Okonjo-Iweala’s label for Africa as the next BRIC.
“Africa should aspire to doing better than the BRICs,” Devarajan argues on his “African Can End Poverty” blog.
The chief economist says Brazil, Russia, India and China still have “significant pockets of poverty” despite the rapid growth of their economies. Brazil, he adds, also has one of the world’s most unequal income distribution statistics.
“Meanwhile, recent growth in Africa has been reducing the poverty rate by one percentage point a year—indicating it has been relatively widespread,” Devarajan writes.
Devarajan also makes the point that each of the BRIC is a large, middle-income country, while Africa comprises 47 countries and it is not clear how any of these can aspire to be like the BRIC. The World Bank official says Chile and Malaysia are more appropriate models for the majority of African countries.
In a recent poll, Devex asked if BRIC countries should still receive aid. The majority of respondents answered yes.