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August 30, 2007

Comments

cvj

Morality aside, it makes sense from a survival of the fittest standpoint. There would be fewer poor while the better off will be able to increase their relative numbers. Personally though, I don't subscribe to putting morality aside.

R Mutt

According to the BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4226584.stm
"Farming in Africa has declined at an alarming rate since the start of the Aids epidemic, scientists say.

The virus is ravaging agriculture, with the areas of cultivated land dropping in parts of Kenya by 68%.

The land used is being planted with less nutritious and less profitable crops, they said at the British Association of Science Festival"

I'm sure I've seen other references to the amount of cultivated land in Africa dropping. This is sometimes attributed to developed world farm subsidies, too.

If Africa is caught in the Malthusian trap, surely the amount of land being cultivated ought to be increasing? (up to a plateau)

AIDS is not caused by overpopulation or hunger, so it's not part of a Malthusian die-back.

random african

i *think* his point was that the high mortality kept a relatively low population (which is, imo, untrue. voluntary birth control and the slave trade had a bigger effect).
the issue being that the population is growing bigger than the ressources (and the productivity not growing), which makes everyone poorer.

but yeah, R Mutt pointed out the drop in the amount of cultivated land, which i bet started a long time before AIDS. Then again, i doubt that trend is continental. geography, particularities of economies, population trends explains the differences.


anyway, the article is weirdly enough, incredibly vague in my humble opinion.
and coming out with the idea that Africa needs to industrialize half a century after Nkrumah is highly ironic.

Rick GH

You are right - that op-ed is mostly BS.

A host of countries, such as Malawi or Tanzania, would be better off materially had they never had contact with the industrialized world and instead continued in their preindustrial state.

Has Greg Clark visited any of these countries? It's true that these countries are poor relative to most countries in the world but it betrays a vast ignorance of these places to be unaware that they have experienced significant improvement in living standards even over the past few decades.

Will

How is a Malthusian Trap distinguishable from a Poverty Trap in the data?

If Clark is right and Africa is stuck in a Malthusian logic, then a "big push" wouldn't be good policy. Temporary increases in incomes only increases the number of mouths to feed.

One interpretation of the last 40 years in Africa --- growing populations and decreasing living standards, despite foreign aid --- is that a "big push" won't work. What about the experience in most oil rich countries, for example, makes us think that manna from heaven can improve standards of living?

Will

Rick do you have a cite for the idea that Tanzania and Malawi have see improvement recently? From the PWT, Tanzania has had a good decade, but previous to 1997, their performance was pretty bad. Also, Malawi has less than 0.5% GDP per person growth in the last two decades. I wouldn't count that as a "significant improvement", especially since growth rates have slowed dramatically in recent decades.

Jamal

Greg Clark argues the importance of human capital in the success of an economy.In Africa's situation there is a distinct lack of human capital, and disease plays a large role in that.

In fact if there is high child mortality parents tend to overcompensate when having children; so it causes the high population growth. Sach's shows the strong correlation in his chapter on myths and magic bullets

As long as we can invest to make sure economic growth exceeds population growth then it will break the trap. Improvements in health will contribute both to increases in economic growth and decreases in population growth. Africa's high mortality is far from a blessing

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