Robert B. Zoellick: Helping Africa Grow

Article excerpt

Byline: Jerry Guo

Since the financial crisis hit, the World Bank has provided a record $89 billion to support development initiatives around the world. Much of this funding has gone to Africa, a special focus of president Robert B. Zoellick, a U.S. trade representative under George W. Bush. Zoellick recently sat down with NEWSWEEK's Jerry Guo in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to talk about the continent's prospects for growth. Excerpts:

Which model--China's, India's, or its own--is Africa following in terms of development?

I think it is going to follow its own model, but it can learn lessons from others. China has been extremely successful, first at creating added value through the agriculture sector and then export-led growth. In India, you've seen a fantastic development of the service sector. A third [model] is the European Union. One of the challenges for sub-Saharan Africa is that markets are of modest size. This makes regional integration important.

Which African economies would you single out for doing particularly well?

At slightly higher income levels, Botswana and Mauritius are good growth stories. A little bit lower are Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mali, and Burkina Faso.

How quickly will a critical mass of middle-class consumers develop here?

You really have to get to [per capita income levels of] $10 a day to get to some people's definition of a middle class. What I'd focus on in Africa is getting to $2 a day. At a slightly higher income level, you start to have local manufacturers who can target the local market. The other interesting possibility coming out of the crisis is that some Chinese operations may move basic manufacturing to Africa. A Chinese provincial party secretary said maybe they should move out of the "shoes and Christmas toy" markets, start moving up the value-added chain, and move basic manufacturing to sub-Saharan Africa. …