Week 4: Radelet and Sachs

Radelet’s How 17 Countries are Leading the Way examines the dramatic economic and political changes that have altered the African political landscape. These include the emergence of new technology, the rise of democracy, and the solidification of African countries in the international community.



Before increasing independence swept across Africa in the past fifty years came the rise of the Big Man generation. This is defined by Radelet as the domination of the strongman presidents in the political sphere. With this came state controls over the economy and widespread “control regimes”. We can define this trend by the authoritarian implementation of policies and definitive aspects of dictatorships. This was referred to as the Hippo generation, in which greedy militant governments dominated African society. The Cheetah generation, on the other hand, includes young Africans who are emerging as leaders, dedicated to solving the problems of the past and the contemporary ones that come with developing countries. Many of these “cheetahs” are well educated and determined to change the face of government, making it transparent and accountable.



With each of these generations we can see the different ways they viewed democracy and civil society. In the Big Man generation, democracy was rare, but the increasing call for an end to corruption has spurred democratic policies and given a voice to citizens in the Cheetah generation. People are no longer just the puppets of dictators, but citizens, working in and strengthening civil society. To the Cheetah generation, NGOs are an important factor in increasing the spread of democracy, education, and policy reform. Issues such as poverty and population growth are addressed by NGOs such as AllAfrica.com. Radelet also discusses the role of women in the Cheetah generation, highlighting their role as leaders in the pro-democracy movement. The “Green Belt” Movement, led by Wangari Maathai is an example of the new role women have taken on in contemporary African life.

Ghanaian economist George Ayittey unleashes a torrent of controlled anger toward corrupt leaders in Africa — and calls on the Cheetah generation to take back the continent. (http://www.ted.com)

The End of Poverty by Jeffery Sachs provides insight into the current problems in developing/emerging countries. He highlights how natural resource decline has affected the sustainability of villages, making farming difficult. Other examples include the lack of saving, absence of trade, technological reversal, adverse productivity shock, and population growth. All of these things hinder a developing country’s ability to promote economic growth and democracy. Sachs proposes a diagnostic checklist that “should be part of the physical exam of any impoverished country”.


The World’s Next Great Leap Forward: Towards the End of Poverty


Here are two examples, analyzed by the diagnostic checklist:



  1. Poverty Trap: Kenya has a poverty headcount of 45.9% of the total population. This fact affects demographic trends, disease, and commodity price fluctuations.
  2. Physical Geography: Disease ecology provides insight into the high number of those infected with HIV/AIDS. This ongoing pandemic is a defining issue for Kenya.
  3. Governance Patterns and Failures: Recent policies enacted by President Kenyatta to guard against armed groups have been criticized as an infringement on democratic rights.

MDGs: Increased life expectancy over the past fifteen years (low 50s to 61).




  1. Physical Geography: The country is predominately rural with a population density among the highest in Africa.
  2. Cultural Barriers: Lasting ethnic and religious diversity plague the country, which once witnessed one of the most horrific genocides.
  3. Geopolitics: A growing tourism industry has provided economic stimulus and connection with the international community.

MDGs: Transparency International ranked Rwanda with one of the lowest corruption indexes in Africa.


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