A New Era for Development Economics

As countries around the world continue to build and rebuild their economies in this new era, business as usual is not going to enough for people, families, communities and nations. There is a vital need for economic transformation that is based on next-generation development economics, informed by economic history as well as political economy, inclusive, and ready to evolve with the digital age.

Although there are glimmers of hope from the Africa Rising narrative to the mobile phone revolution and a nascent startup and machine learning ecosystem, much work still remains in the realms of policy, infrastructure and transformation. All of these and other movements–and this goes back to the independence era of the 1960s and the second democratic wave in the 1990s–have tended to happen outside the purvey of development economics, suggesting that ours is a profession that needs a better connection with history in the making. We see this with the growing interest of the global technology sector in the developing world, social movements across the board, and a new wave of young people making change in their worlds.

Productive industrialization as well as economic and political development remain viable, but it is clear that it must look quite different from what has come before if it is to succeed. Being tied into global chains in the traditional sense, while important, also risks entanglement and even stagnancy, requiring new approaches to globalization and social impact. Success itself is prime for a redefinition, being a moving target. The assumed limitations of developing country governments and their partners actually have much in common with small startups that can punch above their weight with data-driven and scientific mindsets.

DEVELOPMENT ECONOMICS X is development as the human condition.

Most development economists joined the profession with game-changing transformation in mind, before life got complicated and they had to lower their ambitions and accept the limited status quo as a culture. However, it’s not too late to improve as we are all learning.

Although many young people are and will be the next-generation of consumers for firms and beneficiaries of policy originating in developed countries, we have a chance to chart an entirely new path. What are their dreams and how can they come true? From physical capital, human capital, technological change and global competitiveness to name a few, needs abound. New environments are emerging, from digital infrastructure to innovative legal and socioeconomic institutions that put the interests of developing country citizens first, and not as a constraint to the interests of parties in developed nations.

The next generation will decide what development economics is, does, and means for the future of the developing world, the planet in general, and the development economics profession in particular.

Kweku Opoku-Agyemang

Development in the twenty-first century

Development economics in the twenty-first century is occurring with the backdrop of a new political economy and economic history in the making.

Development Economics X is dedicated to ensuring that technological change fundamentally improves the human condition in the developing world. By taking action to ensure that innovation is a true global phenomenon and harnessing the next generation, development economics can and will become a culture around the world.