Monday, July 21, 2014

Jobs in Africa

The African Economic Outlook (here) came out this month. It predicts continued 5% growth overall, with about 7% in the west and only 3-4% in the north and south. For Nigeria, and my former students should pay attention, it points out that most of that growth is NOT in the oil sectors: agriculture, trade, and ICT growing fastest. It also advises countries to invest more in the value added industries. Given that the vast majority of my intro economics students and even the people on the street in Nigeria not only could but did tell me the same thing on multiple occasions, I'm less impressed. It's a right answer, of course, but more needs to be done to identify why it isn't happening when everyone already knows it's the right answer and to take the political economy more seriously.

Oh, and as an aside, take a look at this graph from the AEO:
I could be wrong, but I don't think that's how gears work. The bottom two would turn just fine, but the Human Rights gear is pushing the Unequal Access gear counter-clockwise while the Exclusion gear is pushing it clockwise. From a graph standpoint, this undermines the presumed point that each of them exacerbates the others. It suggests maybe that a poor human rights record makes unequal access not as bad, or that unequal access improves human rights...

Teal argues that the increase in education supply in Africa is a good thing, but only provisionally. The question is: why is more education good? It's good from a human rights/development perspective, clearly. But whether increased education will bring people out of poverty depends in part on whether or not there are jobs available that demand the increased skills.
"Without the factories the dramatic increase in the primary educated work force will indeed see little economic gain from their education. The recent increases in the demand for education beyond the primary level certainly suggests that both students, and their parents, are aware that low levels of education have little value in the job market place. Focusing on meeting that demand rather than focusing on why that demand has arisen may well be to miss the critical problem facing educational policy in Africa."
One of the informal jobs I saw often in Nigeria is that of the porter. People, usually boys, wandered the Jimeta market with wheelbarrows, offering to carry my purchases. The Sudanese government, however, has decided that it is in the public's interest to create a monopoly on wheelbarrows in Khartoum. Porters are not allowed to own their own wheelbarrow, but must rent them at high fees, ruining what little income they were getting from a pretty thankless job.

El Alaoui, Aicha, Elhadj Ezzahid, and Jallal Eladnani (2013). "Estimating NAIRU: The Moroccan Case", MPRA Paper No 56815.
In intermediate macro we are introduced to the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment (NAIRU). The idea is that if the level of unemployment is lower than NAIRU, you can expect inflation to increase, and to decrease if unemployment is higher. They estimate that the NAIRU has decreased from around 13% in 1998 to about 9% today. There is no explanation for why this happened and the policy conclusion - Morocco needs looser monetary policy based on the fact that the unemployment rate was consistently higher than NAIRU - does not capitalize on the fact that inflation has been remarkably low and sometimes negative since late 2009 or discuss the bank's mandate, goals, or governance.

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