Oliver W. Kim

Green Shoots in East Africa

Green Shoots in East Africa

This is in part a way for me to organize my thoughts and actually start some research into East African industrialization. First, a sense of the relative starting positions:


Kenya is the richest, followed by Tanzania and Rwanda. Ethiopia is the furthest behind. All this subject to the usual caveats of GDP measurement, doubly so in a developing world context. But even the richest, Kenya, is around 1/50th what it is in the United States.

Notice the horrifying dip in Rwanda in the late 1990s. Untold tragedy behind that figure. There’s a smaller but analogous dip in Kenya following the post-election violence in 2007. A quick eyeball test tells us that Kenya has not returned to trend in the 10 years since. In East Africa, violence remains the biggest long-term threat to growth.

The Hill to Climb

To put this into perspective, real GDP per capita in Kenya would have to grow at 5% a year for the next half-century to get roughly where China is today.

Japan managed about 4% a year from 1960 to 1990. China managed about 8% a year from 1979 to 2018.

But the scale of our ambitions has to be larger than individual interventions.