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Pankaj Mishra

Don't Believe the Experts

Supposedly neutral judgments need more public scrutiny.
The "Africa Rising" narrative may have been premature.

The "Africa Rising" narrative may have been premature.

Photographer: Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

Africa is “rising,” or so authoritative sources declared a few years ago. An Economist cover story in 2013 amplified the claim; the Wall Street Journal carried a series of articles on economic growth in Africa under this title. African “lions,” according to a report published as recently as September by the McKinsey Global Institute, are “on the move.”

Yet there’s also growing skepticism, summed up by the headline of a New York Times report last month: “‘Africa Rising’? ‘Africa Reeling’ May Be More Fitting Now. Four countries that appeared to be rising -- Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria and Zambia -- are now either receiving or seeking IMF bailouts. One of Africa’s most vicious civil wars has erupted in South Sudan, the world’s fastest-growing economy in 2013. David Pilling, Africa Editor of the Financial Times, correctly pointed out in March this year that “the only thing we know about African economies is that we do not know much at all.”