Democracy and Development in Africa

Synopsis

Despite three decades of preoccupation with development in Africa, the economies of most African nations are still stagnating or regressing. For most Africans, incomes are lower than they were two decades ago, health prospects are poorer, malnutrition is widespread, and infrastructures and social institutions are breaking down. An array of factors has been suggested to explain the apparent failure of development in Africa, including colonial legacy, social pluralism, corruption, poor planning and incompetent management, limited inflow of foreign capital, and low levels of saving and investment. Alone or in combination, these factors are serious impediments to development, but Claude Ake contends that the problem is not that development has failed, but that it was never really on the agenda. He maintains that political conditions in Africa are the greatest impediment to development. In this book, Ake traces the evolution and failure of development policies, including the IMF stabilization programsthat have dominated international efforts. He believes that the authoritarian structure the African states inherited from colonial rule created a political environment that was hostile to development. Ake sketches the alternatives that are struggling to emerge from calamitous failure - economic development based on traditional agriculture, political development based on decentralization of power, and reliance on indigenous communities that have been providing some measure of refuge from the coercive power of the central state. Ake's argument may become a new paradigm for development in Africa.