An optimistic report on the unprecedented recent economic progress of the world’s developing nations.
“Never before have so many people, in so many developing countries, made so much progress, in so short a time in reducing poverty, increasing incomes, improving health, reducing conflict and war, and spreading democracy,” writes Radelet (Global Human Development/Georgetown Univ., Emerging Africa: How 17 Countries Are Leading the Way, 2010). In this welcome overview of transformations in more than 100 developing countries over the past two decades, he emphasizes that “the news is not all good” and not all developing nations are participating. Nonetheless, there has been a remarkable surge of progress: nearly 1 billion people have been lifted from poverty; incomes, however irregular and unpredictable, are rising; and there have been dramatic improvements in health and education. Dictatorships have been replaced by democracies (now the form of government in half of these nations), and civil wars have been cut in half. What’s more, writes Radelet, much of this hopeful picture has been overlooked, with news reports focusing on gloom-and-doom stories and many researchers using perspectives that fail to recognize significant ongoing changes. Drawing on a trove of data and his own experiences working in Indonesia and Africa, he traces improvements to many factors: the end of the Cold War, which eliminated U.S. and Soviet support for favored dictators; new technologies; increased global integration; and local and world leadership. Across the board, people are “less poor,” with China leading the way and with a host of sub-Saharan nations enjoying growing economies. Furthermore, drastic reductions in infant mortality are slowing population growth, with parents having fewer children. The nice mix of bright anecdotes and solid data makes the book highly accessible. Radelet describes the enormous impact of cheaper airfares, mobile phones, standardized shipping containers, and new agricultural technologies.
With strong global leadership, writes the author, these hopeful trends will continue. A good book for policymakers and readers interested in global current affairs.