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Hosted by the Rhodes Economic Forum

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government; a Professorial Fellow of St Antony’s College; Director, International Growth Centre; and Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies, Oxford. From 1998–2003 he took Public Service leave during which he was Director of the Research Development Department of the World Bank. Paul is currently adviser to the Strategy and Policy Department of the IMF, to the Africa Region, World Bank and to DfID. His research covers the causes and consequences of civil war; the effects of aid and the problems of democracy in low-income and natural-resources rich societies. In 2014, Paul received a knighthood for services to promoting research and policy change in Africa.

Professor Sir Paul Collier’s talk on the “Prospects for the Bottom Billion” shed light on Africa’s recent economic development and the outlook for the “Bottom Billion.” Looking back, Paul explained that Africa’s glorious decade of the early 2000s was caused by the arrival of four “buses”: debt relief, rising commodity prices, the search for new resources and the global liquidity flood that raised demand in African sovereign bonds. Now that these buses have passed, he emphasized the need for lasting growth to be caused by fundamentals, particularly growth in productivity. Paul forecasts that convergence will spur most of future global growth while the expansion of the frontier may take only a secondary role. He identified two quanta to ensure that Africa overcomes its recent economic challenges: demographics and urbanization. Urbanization may be the main opportunity for catch-up because cities offer a platform for connectivity, which is necessary for productivity growth. If many people, particularly young people, move to cities that are well connected, productivity will rise. Thus, he concluded that cities must focus on increasing density and expanding public transport in order to offer opportunities for employment and innovation.

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