Open Access Book on African Economic Development

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by: Christopher Cramer, John Sender and Arkebe Oqubay


1.1 The Air that Policy Officials Breathe

Every day policy officials are tasked with coming up with solutions to complex puzzles. They must do this in a context of (often) inadequate staffing levels and unreliable data; multiple claims on the resources at their disposal; and having to think strategically while under intense pressure to address short-term issues. At the same time, they must field the attentions of an array of domestic political forces and international agencies (international financial organizations, bilateral partners, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and a stream of beltway consultants).

All the while, they are breathing in an atmosphere thick with ideas. Some they may have absorbed while ploughing through a standard textbook on economics; some are part of the popular discourse of African nationalism; and some are supposed ‘universal truths’ about global political economy. Often, these ideas contradict each other. In short, being a policy official in an African—or any—country is difficult.

In this book, we will attempt to introduce some fresh ways of thinking about the complex economic policy problems facing many African countries. However, this does not mean we claim to know the policy answers. Policies have to be designed in detailed ways, addressing the specific needs of individual countries (and parts of countries) at particular times. Furthermore, as we argue in this book, often the most interesting policy design issues emerge during the process of policy implementation, where they either fail or at least do not turn out as was intended—policies can then be adjusted, improvised, and improved in response to these unpredicted problems.

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