7 tips for developing nations

Dr. Peter Mutharika, the nation’s President, won a place in the pantheon of African strongmen last week. He responded to the 2016 post-electoral violence by deploying tanks in the capital to make clear that…

Dr. Peter Mutharika, the nation’s President, won a place in the pantheon of African strongmen last week. He responded to the 2016 post-electoral violence by deploying tanks in the capital to make clear that Zimbabwe has not been the only country to experience electoral turmoil.

So what did Zambian economist Mwenda Nsapuka predict that sparked the tyrants’ reaction? He told the Post Times: “Our economy is facing serious challenges in the context of industrial overcapacity, unfavourable tax regimes and limited access to finance.”

The newspaper named its July editorial, “Economic Troubles” – soon to be echoing across the continent – as its most published piece. By the way, the Zambian newspaper Malawi Post carried a similar piece. Under no circumstances can a paper have all the answers, but in the spirit of Chinua Achebe’s great fictional work, A Man of the People, here are ten potential tips to get your industry right.

1. Know your region. The Washington Post this summer rightly pointed out that political blunders by President Obama’s economic team were not limited to handling the Great Recession. A decades-long slog to industrialize Asia helped give rise to China and encourage it to pressure the United States to settle its trade imbalances. China and India are two examples of developing countries with economic shortcomings from which the West has no way of escaping.

2. Leave no difference. With the default scenario of slow growth everywhere, developing countries should keep moving. But not just. Several should develop structural measures to improve the economic future of their own countries. For example, a middle class in Vietnam would make it a better market for foreign manufacturers than South Korea. Countries in Africa need to think about ways to create what Madowa has called “a digital revolution in knowledge economy.” China and other Asian powers are turning Asia into a giant cluster of software, manufacturing and marketing firms. That is not lost on developing countries.

3. Finally, compare like with like. Asian leaders have not often seen the glass as half full. Their economies have grown broadly but slowly. That means they have some catching up to do, something that should be lessons to new generations of American businesspeople.

Let me add one more and say this for a final time: When analyzing the next CEO of Boeing or Intel or Intel CEO or Duke Energy, remember all the kinds of failures you will encounter.

— Bob Burg

Robert Burg is a foreign affairs specialist at CSIS who focuses on Africa.

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