Is Africa still rising? Is it taking off? Has the take-off been delayed by bad global weather? Do the political and macroeconomic conditions call for some other inspirational, even if not entirely accurate, descriptor? These questions can be posed more as a test of a label’s durability and utility than of the continent’s actual circumstances. It is worth asking what is happening to the Africa Rising theme because the continent still seems to find itself somewhere between old-style scepticism and new-era optimism, at least in the minds of the investors and development organisations that tend to come up with the labels. While some still hang their thinking on the Africa Rising peg, its utility is diminished. Exposed to more rigorous scrutiny, a recent academic paper by Prof Ian Taylor of the University of St Andrews in Scotland was one of a number to argue that the Africa Rising narrative served to consolidate and justify Africa’s dependent position in the global economy. According to...

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