Democracy and Development in Africa

Democracy and Development in Africa

Democracy and Development in Africa

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.

Excerpt

Over the past three decades, Africa's preoccupation with development has had only marginal success. Most Africans are worse off than they were, health and nutrition problems are widespread, and infrastructure is eroding. Many studies have suggested causes for these problems: colonialism, corruption, insufficient technical assistance, unfavorable terms of trade, inadequate entrepreneurial skills, and incompetent management, among others. But Claude Ake believes that political conditions are the greatest obstacle to development.

In most of Africa, colonial rule left a legacy of intense commitment to independence but few ideas regarding appropriate economic policies. Immediately after the new nations achieved independence, the political environment was hostile to development. The internal struggle for power was the absolute focus of attention. But the new leaders soon realized that they needed some new legitimizing theme to replace liberation ideology, and they settled on economic development as a natural alternative. With sparse resources of their own to work with, however, they looked to foreign powers to finance their aspirations and thereby reintroduced in the economic context some of the issues of dependence that they had settled in the political context.

Ake gives an overview of the development policies that have ensued and documents the pattern of failure. He examines the alternatives that can be considered: economic development based on traditional agriculture, political development based on decentralization of power, and reliance on indigenous communities to provide some refuge from the centralized state. His purpose is to outline the fundamental redesign he believes will be necessary.

Claude Ake is director of the Centre for Advanced Social Science in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. He completed this manuscript during his fellowship term as a visiting scholar with the Africa Project at the Brookings . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.