Could Africa Be Like America?

54 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2002

Date Written: May 2002


Although there are important lessons for Africa from the experience of East Asia, the sectoral and spatial structures of an increasingly prosperous Africa will be more like those of the Americas. Because it is land-abundant, as is America, Africa will always have a larger primary sector and a smaller manufacturing sector than the land-scarce regions of Asia and Europe. Moreover, because much of its land is far from the sea, which raises internal transport costs, a prosperous Africa will be like America also in having a relatively unpopulated interior, based on agriculture and mining, with urban industrial concentrations on its coasts. Africa could surpass the current income level of South America, although it may never quite catch up with North America because of its tropical climate and its division into many countries, which obstructs internal movement of goods, ideas and people. What is mainly needed to raise Africa from poverty to prosperity are improvements in governance which will reduce the risks of investment and encourage the return of flight capital, physical and human. Similar improvements in governance are needed in all poor countries, but the policy priorities of land-abundant Africa differ from those of land-scarce Asia in three areas. First, it is even more crucial for Africa to apply knowledge to nature by promoting scientific research, education and training in agriculture and mining. Second, to overcome the problems of internal spatial dispersion, Africa must spend more on transport and communications and facilitate movement of people, especially from the interior to the coasts. Third, Africa must ensure widely distributed access to land and education, so that high levels of inequality do not slow growth and perpetuate poverty.

Keywords: Africa, Latin America, land abundance, Heckscher-Ohlin, economic geography

JEL Classification: F11, O54, O55, R11

Suggested Citation

Wood, Adrian, Could Africa Be Like America? (May 2002). Available at SSRN: or

Adrian Wood (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Queen Elizabeth House
3 Mansfield Road
Oxford, OX1 3TB
United Kingdom

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics