Sir Paul Collier, one of the world’s most eminent development economists and expert on African economies, spoke to CDE’s executive director Ann Bernstein about democracy, business, markets, and development. “It was a masterclass on how to think about development”, said Bernstein.
According to Collier, workers in large firms in Ethiopia are 10 times (1,000%) more productive than workers in micro-enterprises. This is what he calls ‘the miracle of productivity’ and it is what Africa needs to escape poverty.
In his view, the future of Africa lies in urban areas, not in agriculture. Peasant farmers are hungry and unproductive, and as agriculture becomes commercial and more productive, more food will be produced by fewer people. All those other people will have to get productive jobs in cities.
Collier believes that it will be many years before low-income, low-skilled jobs in manufacturing are made economically unviable, if ever. “Forecasts of doom and gloom in this respect are much exaggerated,” he said.
On leadership, Collier explained that leaders need the vital asset of ‘willing compliance’ by citizens. To achieve that you need to be trusted. And trust has to be built by behaviour over time. Some leaders have built that trust and are effective “communicators-in-chief”. People listen to them because they have built up trust