Will Ethiopia be the next China?

Tyler Cowen asks.






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62 Responses to Will Ethiopia be the next China?

  1. Well, they might have a Mao Moment.

  2. JerryC says:

    Yeah, well, that’s just like your opinion, man.

  3. superposition says:

    Ask Tyler what his alter ego Tyrone thinks about African IQ.

  4. Octavian says:

    Yes – provided the Chinese go in and kick out the Ethiopians and replace them with themselves.

  5. mapman says:

    Cowen is just virtue-signaling. He actually understands how things work and occasionally lets some of the knowledge out. But he is also comfortable and addicted to his parasitic life, so he needs to balance every hint of heresy with messages of clueless progressivism.

    • NobodyExpectsThe... says:


    • Yudi says:

      This remark that our betters actually are smarter than we give them credit for is getting tiresome. No, they really are that stupid, by and large. It’s our duty, sadly, to seek out thinkers past and present who aren’t stupid and trying to mislead us cattle.

      • Hwite says:

        I agree for most of them but not Tyler. It’s clear from his blog that he knows the score.

      • Jim says:

        I seriously doubt that Bill Gates is “stupid” in the sense of having a low IQ but he seems to sincerely believe that it is possible to get virtually everybody to a college level of academic achievement.

        • DK says:

          Doubtful that Gates sincerely believes such thing. More likely, he is willing to entertain the possibility of it and thus, as a price of not having a conflict with his wife, does not mind throwing some money into it to see what happens.

          But yes, lots of nominally non-stupid elites do sincerely believe stupid things. E.g., it sounded like Zuck really believed that $100M he gave to Newark, NJ school district really would make a difference in school performance.

          • Jim says:

            One thing about the present times is that it is hard to know what public people really believe just based on what they say.

          • crew says:

            I need to tell Zuck that the return on investment in these cases has a threshold effect, and that he needs to give me $1B and I will improve the scores of minorities.

            Yeah. That’s the way to do it.

          • Smithie says:

            Gates definitely believes in IQ. Years and years ago, maybe the early ’90s, he lamented how he couldn’t just give an IQ test to prospective employees. They developed puzzle questions for interviews which were used as a sort of substitute.

            But political views are often kind of schizophrenic. I don’t think he would get along so well with Buffett if he did not lean left, even without his wife’s influence.

  6. Coagulopath says:

    Ethiopia has 100m people, China 1.3b. Even if the mean natinoal IQ was the same, Ethiopia wouldn’t be the next China.

    • David Chamberlin says:

      He said Ethiopia would be the next China of Africa. Read the article https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-05-29/ethiopia-already-is-the-china-of-africa.
      Absolute drivel. “If you are looking for a special place in Africa Ethiopia might be your best bet.” What kind of special is he looking for? Maybe goat herders armed with AK47’s is special to him, I don’t know.

      • David Chamberlin says:

        The comment section of the above linked article chatters on about how China is helping out Africa with needed infrastructure as if they are doing it out of the kindness of their hearts. Funny how the infrastructure that China builds in Africa always seems to be directed towards projects that allow them to ship out the raw materials from Africa. The popularity of the Chinese in Africa is dropping fast, it was above 75% when they got there but is now below 50%. Africa has a long history of telling outsiders “get the fuck out” , one wonders when the Chinese will be asked to leave.

        • Abelard Lindsey says:

          The latest “There will be war” collection of short stories has one about the Chinese in Africa. At the end, a Chinese intelligence officer is consoling a biotech guy in Maryland to consult with the White House. He say “You cannot save the Africans. But you can prevent WWIII between China and the West. Neither China nor the West wants WWIII”. The Chinese intelligence officer even threw in a 2 week paid holiday in a fancy condo in Hawaii for the biotech guy. How thoughtful of him.

      • Smithie says:

        His turn of phrase: “next China of Africa” is unintentionally satirical. There is a recent theme among economists and people talking about world development connecting Africa to China, on various levels – continent and nation always employing the term “next China”, but never, I believe, till him “of Africa.”

        It is usually formatted as a rather optimistic question. “Will ____ be the next China?” I have even heard Djibouti compared to Singapore. To fully appreciate the humor, you’ve got to have read some of the hare-brained excuses they made before they latched on to this phrase.

    • Glengarry says:

      What was the first China of Africa?

  7. Maciano says:

    Cowen always bores me.

    • David Chamberlin says:

      Don’t all economists? They earned the name the dismal science for good reason.

      • Yudi says:

        Pseudoerasmus, Greg Clark, and Garret Jones are not boring! There are a few other economists worth looking at, like Dietz Vollrath and the “deep roots” researchers. If anything, economists might be more accepting of our message than other social sciences. They’re less left-wing and have spent decades trying to figure out how to help poor countries catch up, with little success. Eventually, they’ll become more receptive to HBD. However, economic historians (the guys mentioned above) are definitely a lot less stupid than economists focused on modern times.

        • David Chamberlin says:

          Good points. There are exceptions,

        • David Chamberlin says:

          An intelligent honest reporting of Africa looking at it from the perspective of the last fifty years is sadly lacking. It isn’t just economists that have stuck their head in the sand, it’s everybody. Lots of people care enough to be concerned but to actually report on the factual big picture is a suicidal career move. South and Central America are steadily getting worse because of narco terrorism but at least those people are getting their shit together by taking birth control. No sign of the same trend in Africa. Adults in Africa believe that they only way they will be taken care of in their old age is to have a lot of kids. If I was to pick one of the four ways continued population growth will be primarily checked in Africa between birth control, disease, war, and famine i would pick disease. Kind of like a volcano that is due to blow up in the next century it is simply a matter of time before a highly contagious disease sweeps through Africa. Ebola was nothing, it isn’t contagious enough.

          Kudos to those rare few who talk honestly and compassionately about Africa.

          • Cloveoil says:

            “Adults in Africa believe that they only way they will be taken care of in their old age is to have a lot of kids.” – is this irresponsible?

  8. Greying Wanderer says:

    extrapolating on current trajectories i’d expect South Africa and Zimbabwe to be China 2.0 – i guess eventually the current geographical limits of Ethiopia might be China 4.0 or 5.0 maybe

  9. The Ibo/Igbo are in Nigeria, if you’re looking for a special place in Africa. Of course, when they seceded a few decades ago, Nigeria starved them out. Biafra.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      Yes, if any place in Africa had a chance at breaking out of poverty, it was Biafra. So of course, the US, the Brits, and the Soviets all had to gang up on them. The Africa policy of almost all the Great Powers in the 1960’s and 1970’s was unusually stupid and counterproductive, even for the time.

      As for Ethiopia being the next China, there are some questions so stupid only an economist could ask them.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        nothing to do with the youruba and hausa not wanting them to secede then

        • charles w abbott says:

          a complicated issue. For every book you can read about the Nigerian Civil War that is accurate and incisive, there is at least one that is highly misleading and cheerfully prejudicial.

          Nigeria / Biafra The Brothers War by John de St. Jorre is still worth reading. The late Saro-Wiwa’s On a darkling plain is good for a Southern minority viewpoint. All kinds of works are good. The Yoruba were probably a wild card until the Biafran rebels launched a lightning raid toward Lagos.

          Both the Igbo and the Yoruba have big successful diasporas, and many of the smaller groups have smaller successful diasporas. But the institutional factors at home choke off much of the development potential. The book Dancing on the brink by Caldwell is a good primer.

  10. Martin L. says:

    In Old Testament times Ethiopia was a fairly advanced civilization. Yes that was when they were purely Semitic but a lot of the Semitic blood remains to day in various strengths throughout the nation.

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  12. Ledford Ledford says:

    Better question: is South Africa the next Zimbabwe?

    • Young says:

      It looks as if South Africa is going to be another starving septic tank.. Rhodesia/Zimbabwe used to be a bread basket and fed itself and others when it had white farmers. Now many of them have been murdered or driven out and the miserable country is dependent on foreign aid which, oddly, is also provided by white farmers.

      They should stick to their principles and demand that all foreign aid be grown only by black farmers. It would solve their population problem.

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      depends – i think China is planning a takeover (cf the recent coup in Zim) – question is do they want to keep the white farmers or replace them with Chinese – if the latter then yeah i’d expect a nasty phase to chase out the whites before they take over – if the former then no.

      • Young says:

        Interesting response: white farmers or Chinese farmers, so nobody actually expects the blacks to work. That probably is a realistic expectation.

        • Greying Wanderer says:

          well i’d expect them to work if they were left alone (not necessarily at the current level) but they’re not going to be left alone

  13. Young says:

    Contrary to some claims, I don’t think the next Einstein will be coming from Africa either.

  14. Clint Eastwood says:

    If we were to compare medieval ethiopia with a eurasian historical state, who would they be most similar to technologically and socially? Early Republican Rome?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Ethiopia was less sophisticated, only weakly connected to the outside world, particularly after Islam.

    • Cloveoil says:

      Ethiopia was a Eurasian state: her cultural connections were overwhelmingly Arabian and Mediterranean, and to this day she is part of the Greater Mediterranean culture area. There is surprisingly little African about the Horn of Africa region, thinking culturally (they are a racial mix of course).

  15. Cloveoil says:

    BTW has anyone sampled the Savanna Pumé for Andamanese-type admixture? They seem to be the closest there is to a pristine hunter gather group surviving in South America.

  16. The Z Blog says:

    I took some swings at this pinata a while back: http://thezman.com/wordpress/?p=13990

    Being a celebrity economist is a lot being a celebrity chef. The important bit is the celebrity part.

  17. gothamette says:

    How DOES China do it without immigrants?

  18. akarlin says:


    But I suspect Ethiopia will be closer to China than most other countries in Africa (everything’s relative, after all).


  19. AlexT says:

    HBD Chick had an interesting post about Ethiopia a few years back.

  20. Ethiopian says:

    Ethiopian checking in here (who also happens to acknowledge the reality of HBD).

    An underreported aspect of what’s now called the Ethiopian Civil War was just how devastating it was to the (admittedly small, but quite active!) smart fraction that existed in the country.

    At the time when the political violence was at its peak (~1977 to 1979), the vast majority of those killed by the new revolutionary government were young (ages 13-35) literate Ethiopians. It didn’t matter much what organization the dead were accused of sympathizing with (or actively participating in) – the TPLF, EPRP, MEISON, EDU, etc. Simple possession of even the most rudimentary written propaganda published by any of those groups (or their many spin-offs) was enough to warrant execution. Often, these executions were conducted immediately upon discovery of the propaganda – the condemned were led outside their homes, and swiftly shot dead in the street. A bill would then be sent to the parents or any other surviving family members of the individual executed for the cost of the bullet (no, I’m not kidding about this part).

    Ethiopia’s literacy rate at that time was abysmal, as was the education system in much of the country. Traditionally, the only Ethiopians who ever learned to read (other than those for whom literacy was a job requirement – higher-level government officials, etc.) were priests. There aren’t any literacy statistics going back to the 1970s – but the “commonly accepted knowledge” among Ethiopians at the time was that something like less than 10% of Ethiopians were able to read. There was no shame associated with illiteracy, and no social pressure on average Ethiopians to learn to read. Most (90%+) were simple peasants, either working land owned by their family line for hundreds of years, or sharecropping on land owned by either the Ethiopian Orthodox Church or distant members of the nobility.

    So for a young person to acquire the ability to read at that time was something truly special – and (probably – given what we know about HBD) indicative of higher-than-average IQ. Estimates for the number of young people executed during the 1977-1979 period range from 100,000 to over 400,000. These numbers sound small within the context of the current reported population of Ethiopia (~103 million) – but remember that in the late 1970s, the population was less than 1/3 of that. Also keep in mind that an estimated 500,000 Ethiopians fled the country for refugee camps in Sudan over the 1970s and early 1980s, slowly making their way into the United States and other Western countries through the late 1970s and early 1980s – and that most of these refugees were literate, educated Ethiopians (illiterate peasants generally didn’t find themselves in harms’ way during this period).

    Most of the high-IQ young people who were executed, died in the fighting, or fled as refugees never had children in Ethiopia (they were young!). So these losses have only compounded over the following 3 generations – and as the population exploded (from ~33 million in the mid-1970s to ~103 million today), the smart fraction has shrunk even further.

    In short, no, I don’t believe Ethiopia is poised to be “the next China.” However, were it not for the (self-inflicted) eradication of much of Ethiopia’s smart fraction in the 1970s, I do believe Ethiopia had a good shot at significant economic progress.

  21. Airgap says:

    A less stupid question might be whether North Korea, or a unified Korea, would be the next China.

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  23. Pingback: Galloping ahead in Ethiopia - Ethiopia Insight

  24. Pingback: Galloping ahead in Ethiopia - Eritrea Hub

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