Adjusting to Policy Failure in African Economies

By David E. Sahn | Go to book overview

12
Economic Crisis and Policy Reform in Africa: Lessons Learned and Implications for Policy

David E. Sahn

The ten case studies in this book together present a comprehensive picture of African economies in crisis. Broadly dichotomizing Africa's postindependence economic experience into the periods before and after structural adjustment, the authors discuss the evolution of the economic decline, the measures taken in response to the crisis, and the outcomes of these measures. Perhaps no lesson is more manifest than that of the diversity of experience in sub-Saharan Africa and the perils of generalization when it comes to such a large region. The causes and severity of the economic crisis, the nature of policy reforms conceived and implemented in response, and the consequences of those changes vary widely from one country to the next. Nonetheless, it is important to extract common themes and lessons, and to garner the broader perspective that is crucial to advance our knowledge of how economies work, both under the stress of negative external conditions and destructive policies and during periods of reform and recovery.

The story of economic deterioration in Africa, as told in the preceding chapters, is predominantly a consequence of the failure of domestic policy and of the institutions the state helped to develop and sustain. Exogenous factors have also been harmful, especially given the structure of the economies as inherited after independence. Policy, however, determines the degree to which shocks can be absorbed and the degree to which economic transformation occurs. On both counts, examples of state failures abound.

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