Prospects for Recovery and Sustainable Development in Africa

By Aguibou Y. Yansané | Go to book overview
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Toward an Alternative Development Strategy


Africa, with a land area three times the size of the United States, and a population of some 500 million, enjoys the resources required to attain sustainable development defined as increasingly productive employment opportunities and a steadily improving quality of life for all its citizens. 1 Nevertheless, after almost three decades of independence, the overwhelming majority of Africans remain more impoverished than ever, their economies increasingly embroiled in a prolonged crisis. Some twenty-seven African countries, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa, rank among the world's forty poorest. At the end of the 1980s, the World Bank noted 2 that, during the 1980s, six more African states had "slipped" into the world's lowest income group. Sub-Saharan African debt had mounted to $134 billion (about 10 percent of $1.3 billion Third World debt), roughly equal to the region's gross national product (GNP), and three and a half times its export earnings. Debt service obligations equaled almost half of the region's foreign exchange earnings, although actual payments averaged little over a fourth of its 1985-1988 exports. The continent had become a net exporter of capital to the International Monetary Fund ( IMF), remitting to it U.S. $1 billion in 1986 and 1987 over and above what it received from it; that is, about 1.4 cents out of every dollar it earned in those years for its exports of goods and services. 3

Calling for an alternative strategy for sustainable African development, the 1989 Economic Commission for Africa Report, endorsed by African Ministers of Economic Planning, Development and Finance, argued that IMF-World Bank policies had worsened the situation for most Africans: "There is mounting evidence that stabilization and structural adjustment programmes are rending the fabric of the African society. Worse still, their severest impact is on the vulnerable groups in the society -- children, women and the aged -- who constitute two thirds of the population."4

The U.S. African Studies Association ( ASA) has established a Task Force that will propose recommendations for collaborative U.S. Africanist-African


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Prospects for Recovery and Sustainable Development in Africa
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