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Keywords:

  • infrastructure;
  • Africa;
  • China;
  • commodities;
  • Ghana;
  • Nigeria

ABSTRACT

Over the last decade, the majority of both resource-rich and resource-poor countries in Africa have enjoyed a marked improvement in their economic performance. Many of these countries have embarked on large-scale infrastructure projects, in many senses reminiscent of the last major economic boom experienced in the region in the 1960s and 1970s. Yet, that boom very much ended in tears, as countries' economies contracted sharply under unsustainable debt and harsh Structural Adjustment Programmes. This paper asks to what extent can African countries avoid the pitfalls of the previous infrastructure boom and develop an infrastructure investment strategy that will prove both sustainable and catalytic for economic development. The paper critically reviews the salient features of the previous infrastructure boom and its theoretical underpinning, examining three cautionary tales of unsustainable infrastructure booms in Ghana, Nigeria and Zaire (now DRC). Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.