The Bottom BillionSunday, 16 December 2007
This slim volume theorises that there’s no longer just a small rich world (the ‘north’) and a big poor one (the ‘south’). The small rich world is still there, but now there’s also a big middle one which has escaped from ‘poor’ and is heading towards ‘rich.’ Down at the bottom, however, is the ‘bottom billion’ where things are really bad, 70% of them in Africa. Why they are that way and what can be done about it drives the book. There are, the author writes, four reasons countries fail:
• Civil wars – 75% of the BB are either in one or just out of one and if you’ve had one you’re likely to have another. Low education, too many young men and the curse of natural resources (‘diamonds are a guerrilla’s best friend’) are prime causes.
• Natural resources – the curse of oil (or diamonds) which leads to ‘the survival of the fattest,’ if you’ve got natural resources doing anything else becomes more difficult and they are something to fight over.
• Being landlocked – you’re already a further step away from success because you need your neighbours to be good ones to get exports out and imports in.
• Bad governance – which could almost sum it all up, all it takes is a Mobutu or a Mugabe or some Burmese generals (or any of a host of other incompetents) and everything can go wrong.