Stray Observations and Links

I’ve had a difficult time compelling myself to write recently. Don’t worry though, I’ve been reading about psychology and behavioral economics, so I can explain perfectly the phenomena that are leading to me not writing. So at least there’s that.

Today, I’m going to emulate basically every academic blogger ever, and rather than post original ideas of my own, I will share the ideas of others that I think are good.

Meles is dead, long live Meles

For those of you who haven’t heard (ie those of you living in the United States), Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia and head honcho since 1991, died on Tuesday, after not having appeared in public for months. Comparing the response by BBC and NYTimes does a great job of illustrating how little focus there is in the US on international affairs. When I learned Meles had died, I went to BBC Online first. The TOP story, not just for Africa but worldwide, was Meles’ death, with immediate analysis, quotes from world leaders, etc. Then I went to NYT. I saw nothing. Finally I did a control-F (or rather, weird-mac-command-button-F), and saw in tiny print, a link to a small article about his death. A little depressing to know that the death of a major world figure is hardly news in the States.

Anyway, I’ve read maybe a dozen articles about Meles, and they all essentially say the same thing. Meles was brilliant and did a lot for Ethiopia’s economic growth; he was also a dictator who repressed human rights. One of my professors at Georgetown used to be the VP of the World Bank for Africa, so he was full of anecdotes about meeting various heads of state. He told us that Meles was very sharp, and that he always had to pick his smartest staff to go to Ethiopia, because he knew Meles would want to debate about things, and they had to be ready.

Of the gazillion articles saying similar things about Meles, here is one I enjoyed.

Rising Middle Class

These next two articles are well-written accounts of some of the arguments I make most vehemently when talking about development. The first talks about the increase in size of the Middle Class in Africa, and how it’s leading to expanding business opportunities. When people talk about economic growth, I think it’s often done without an end game in mind. However, if you think about what a low-income country success story will look like, it will probably be the transition from having very little money, to having enough money to buy occasional luxury goods, own nicer homes, save for the future, etc. I think that by looking at middle-income countries, such as South Africa, Malaysia, Colombia and Turkey, you can start to get a good idea of what successful development will “look like”. This article doesn’t offer as broad of an analysis, but it does a good job of showing how Africa indeed has a rising middle class.


I’m not done talking about Yao in China. Well, I am, but I’m not done linking to it. One of my favorite basketball blogs, Ball Don’t Lie, had a post about Yao Ming’s efforts to fight against poaching; again talking about the time he spent near Nanyuki, before he went further north. Check it out.


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One Response to Stray Observations and Links

  1. Eddard Stark says:

    On the Middle Class point, I feel like the comparison to South Africa is a bit awkward considering the recent massacre of mineworkers. It’s also the second-most income inequal country in the world based on the Gini index. I think the reason businesses have started thinking it’s useful to target an “African middle class”, which is why the Economist would write such an article, is because populations have boomed to the point that there is enough people with the disposable income to purchase based on brand and status.

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