It's amazing the different perspectives you can get from a few different readings on Africa. The last thing I read before this, James Ferguson's Africa in the Global Shadows (which I discuss here), doesn't give an overwhelmingly positive picture of the way things are going. I followed that by reading Steve Radelet's (of CGD) Emerging Africa where he gives us a far more positive spin on African economic development.
Focussing on 17 economies which have shown positive economic growth, improved democracy and declining poverty rates since the 1990s, and are not oil-producers. He gives us a quick summary of what has been going right for these countries.
Although to some degree it reads like any old standard economic report, with graphs of increasing exports, GDP growth, improving health indices etc., there are a few interesting insights.
One relates to the IMF. The point he makes is basically that the importance of the IMF grew in the 1980s with the debt crisis in SSA, but that with debt cancellation, their role is declining, and therefore so might their influence. It had passed me by that the fact that the IMF was so instrumental in donor decisions might only be a temporal issue; something which could come to change. I don't see them disappearing from countries, and I think they have actually had many positive impacts despite their bad reputation in the donor community (at least they ask some important questions when nobody in government is doing it!).
As a slight criticism, there is a lot which is basically country-level macro-statistics which to me raises the question of the inter-country differences. Mozambique is considered one of the 17 big success stories. And although Radelet admits that not everything is perfect in these countries, I think much more could be said about regional differences and the different growth paths of different regions within a country. Of course, data are more scarce, but the macro-level data hide a lot of variation which shouldn't be ignored.
So it makes an interesting counterpoint to the usual more negative story. However, perhaps I'm too much of a cynic to believe it as I think that if you look a little deeper there is a lot more to be said, and which isn't so easily given the same positive spin.