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Growth scenarios for sub-Saharan countries in the framework of economic complexity

Cristelli, Matthieu and Tacchella, Andrea and Zaccaria, Andrea and Pietronero, Luciano (2014): Growth scenarios for sub-Saharan countries in the framework of economic complexity.

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We present a comparative analysis of the medium-long term perspectives of development for sub-Saharan countries in the framework of economic complexity.

This analysis is made in comparison with the development of Asian tigers. Economic complexity is a data-driven framework which aims at providing a more scientific basis for the economic theory and it has a specific focus on understanding the determinants of growth by means of two new economic dimensions: the country fitness and the product complexity. We argue that the fitness of countries is a quantitative assessment of those intangible assets, which drive the growth. The comparison of this measure for intangibles with monetary figures provides effective insights on the growth potential of countries and defines the fitness-income plane.

The analysis of the dynamics in this plane reveals that most sub-Saharans get stuck in a pre-industrial regime which can be thought as a generalized poverty trap where both income and fitness dimensions are considered. Only Senegal, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and Uganda show a behavior compatible with the early steps of a long term stable and sustained growth, which resembles the one of Vietnam and Malaysia at the beginning of the nineties. As expected, South Africa is the most mature economy of the southern part of Africa. However, its trajectory highlights the concrete risk of an incomplete development of its productive system in terms of diversification, which might concretely jeopardize South Africa’s chance to reach the level of wealth of fully developed countries and put the country at risk of getting stuck in the so-called middle-income trap.

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