As mentioned in the previous post, Steven Radelet is the author of Emerging Africa, which is a piece of writing that inspires readers to focus on the countries in Africa that are the continent’s trailblazers for future success. In one chapter of his book, he discusses a powerful Ghanaian man named Patrick Awuah. Awuah grew up in Ghana but attended college in the United States, and upon his return to Ghana after completing his degree, he was surprised at the state of his home country. He immediately decided that the poor government structure, weak economy, and general lack of resources was no place to grow and develop his career (and little ones on the way!) Awuah went back to the U.S. and worked successfully at Microsoft, where he soon realized he wanted to help reform Ghana to a country that would breed successful leaders and inspired citizens – an environment where he wanted his children to be raised. He established his own college in Ghana called Ashesi University. Radelet writes, “Patrick Awuah and the students of Ashesi University represent a new generation of African leaders – people determined to revolutionize governments, institutions, and communities through innovative thinking, wise leadership, and hard work, rather than through connections, corruption, and force” (Radelet, 2010). Soon enough, these students became national leaders that were looked up to and recognized greatly for their efforts – so much so, that they started being known as the “Cheetah generation.” According to Radelet, they are referred to as “cheetahs” because of their similarity with the animal in approaching situations quietly yet aggressively and confidently. “They have begun quietly and quickly to move into Africa’s government bureaucracies, political leadership, private sector, and civil society groups, replacing staid practices with innovation and accountability” (Radelet, 2010).
It is important to note that the “Cheetah generation” is specifically in contrast with what is known as the “Hippo generation” of the past. Radelet mentions that the “Hippo generation” is widely criticized for its slow-moving nature and the generation’s general complaints about colonialism and imperialism (Radelet, 2010). In terms of democracy and civil society, the “Cheetah generation” is much more empowering, optimistic, inspiring, and unifying for Africa as an entire continent, whereas the “Hippo movement” is stuck in the past, dwelling on the negative aspects of African governments and social issues rather than being proactive in moving forward.
In the book Poor Economics, by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, the first chapter focuses on the issue of poverty on our planet and the different perspectives people have on aid efforts and addressing the issue. The second chapter, however, is more specifically narrowed in on nutrition as a major problem for the poor. The authors bring up the concept of a hunger-based poverty trap, where poor people are barely able to work for enough money to feed themselves, resulting in less strength to do more work in order to make money. This creates an increasing gap between the rich and poor. The rich can work more due to their ability to eat three full meals per day, and consequently make more money to keep the cycle going. The poor have less to eat and have less strength to work more and make money. Additionally, the authors found that the priorities of the poor were to buy better tasting food versus food with the most calories per monetary unit spent. Overall, we need to rethink food policy because there are several assumptions being made about the reasons why the poor are poor in the first place. This chapter raises several specific questions such as “Are there really a billion hungry people? Are the poor really eating well and eating enough? Why do the poor eat so little? Is there really a nutrition-based poverty trap?” (Banerjee & Duflo, 2011). The idea that small gains can accumulate to large differences in the future is the main reason the authors argue we need to rethink food policy. For example, providing a child with excellent nutrition in their youth can lead to them being more successful in their future. “Small investments in childhood nutrition… can make a huge difference later on” (Banerjee & Duflo, 2011). Simply giving the poor large amounts of cheap, ill-tasting grain will not solve the issues of a hunger-based poverty trap. Reflecting on these concepts and questions should help readers understand why we need to rethink food policy.
Another important issue brought up in Chapter 2 is witch-hunting. “The pressure of just getting enough food to survive seems to have driven some people to take rather extreme steps: There was an epidemic of ‘witch’ killing in Europe during the ‘little ice age’… when crop failures were common and fish was less abundant” (Banerjee & Duflo, 2011). Although the “little ice age” was years ago, the practice of witch-hunting has not completely diminished. It is somewhat common in some poor communities, with the idea that individuals would have more to eat with one less mouth to feed. Somehow, the logical solution these people have come to is to kill off someone in the community who is less deserving of the food (by the community’s standards). Tanzania, for example, is known for having witch-hunts during times of drought or limited food availability. Elderly women are often targeted as the sacrificial person in order for the rest of the people to become less hungry. This is just another example of why food policy needs to be reconsidered – the consequences are becoming more dangerous.
This week, I have been assigned to reflect on Liberia and its progress in regards to the original Sustainable Development Goals.
To begin, according to the World Bank Data, Liberia’s GDP has had an incredible increase since 2000 when the goals were established. In 2000, the GDP was around $529 million, and in 2015 it was recorded at over $2 billion. Additionally, the overall population in Liberia experienced a bit of a spike after the new millennium. In terms of environmental issues, Liberia’s CO2 levels have been at some of the country’s all time low numbers since the year 2000. Gross national income (previously referred to as gross national product) has also increased in the country. Despite a slight drop in GNI from 2000-2004, the GNI increased overall from $150 to $380 – which is the highest GNI Liberia has seen since the 1980s. Finally, the life expectancy of Liberian citizens has steadily increased and hopefully will continue to climb in the coming years.
The Sustainable Development Goals are often criticized for being too broad and not specifically focused, however, the before and after comparison of statistics from Liberia (and Kenya’s results discussed in my previous post) are not just coincidences. There has to be a connection between the development of these countries and the implementation of the SDGs.
Banerjee, A. & Duflo, E. (2011). Poor Economics.
Radelet, S. (2010). Emerging Africa.