Lessons in economics from Algeria’s victory in the Africa Cup of Nations

From a VoxEU post by Rabah Arezki:

Algeria’s recent victory in the Africa Cup of Nations has united a country whose development model has frustrated its young and educated workforce. This column offers four lessons for economic development from the national football team’s success: on the role of competition and market forces, mobilising talent, the role of managers, and the importance of referees (i.e. regulation). 

On 19 July, Algeria won the 2019 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations. The victory was the culmination of a strongly contested international football tournament with 24 teams where we saw the best of competition, talent, and refereeing on the continent. Algeria’s consecration comes amid sweeping political transformation triggered by massive demonstrations in the past few months, in turn driven by youths asking for radical change. This has united Algerians and emboldened the national team. This can-do spirit and renewed momentum are likely to be key ingredients for delivering big reforms.

On the economic front, Algeria’s development model has frustrated an educated young and increasingly female labour force aspiring to economic empowerment beyond subsidies and public jobs. The model is essentially stuck in the transition from an administrated economy to a market economy. Moreover, decades of state domination with episodes of liberalisation have yielded crony capitalism, further distancing the population from appreciating the power of harnessing markets for development.

In Algeria, as in many countries, football has triggered passions capturing dreams of greatness and unifying nations. Football can offer four lessons for economic development in Algeria, which is looking to revamp its economic model (see also Kuper and Szymanski 2009 and Palacios-Huerta 2014).

The first lesson is on the role of competition and the power of market forces. In too many sectors in Algeria, prices are controlled and state or private monopolies are the rule, stifling the space for talented Algerians to transform their economy and deterring foreign investment. This is unsustainable considering the shrinking rents coming from oil and gas ever since oil prices collapsed in 2014. Football illustrates how market mechanisms are an important filter for detecting and rewarding talent based on performance and for moving away from favouritism. Without free entry and failure, as in football, economic dynamism and momentum rapidly come to a halt.”

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Posted by at 8:09 AM

Labels: Inclusive Growth


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