Episode 46: Morten Jerven

Morten Jerven explains why we know less than we should about what is happening in African economies, and why this is leading economists to the wrong recommendations. His first book, Poor Numbers: How We are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do About It explained the problems with Africa’s economic data; an his new book,  Africa: Why Economists Get it Wrong sets out how this lack of nuanced understanding of the data has led to flawed analysis and recommendations.  “The bottom line”, he says, “is that there is no bottom billion”.

Morten JervenMorten Jerven is an Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University. He is an economic historian with a PhD from the London School of Economics.

Get the full transcript of Development Drums 46.

 

5 thoughts on “Episode 46: Morten Jerven

  1. Pingback: [Book Review] Africa: Why Economists Get it Wrong | Jeff Bloem

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  3. Owen, thanks for giving a great interview. You were great at leading the discussion to get the most useful bits of information out of him, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of preparation went into this. I’d have liked to have heard you grill him a little more on his conclusions in some places but I understand time is limited.


  4. Jerven is spot-on in his observations on the current state of development economics. I reached similar conclusions after reading many development economists’ perspectives on Africa. There would seem to be greater interest in using African statistics to test and illustrate already-formulated ideas in economics, rather than to understand the dynamics of African economies. I would like to see development economists transcend its obsession with causal linkages to take on bolder and more imaginative questions that can inform and guide key developments unfolding in African economies today such as regional economic integration. With the growing acceptance of data as the gold- standard for rigor and objectivity in analysis, there is a need for more books like Poor Numbers that place data in historical and political context.


  5. Jerven is spot-on in his observations on the current state of development economics. I reached similar conclusions after reading many development economists’ perspectives on Africa. There would seem to be greater interest in using African statistics to test and illustrate already-formulated ideas in economics, rather than to understand the dynamics of African economies. I would like to see development economics transcend its obsession with causal linkages to take on bolder and more imaginative questions that can inform and guide key developments unfolding in African economies today such as regional economic integration. With the growing acceptance of data as the gold- standard for rigor and objectivity in analysis, there is a need for more books like Poor Numbers that place data in historical and political context.


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