Africa: Diversity and Development

By Tony Binns; Alan Dixon et al. | Go to book overview

8   African economies

8.1 Introduction

It is a sad fact that many African countries were, in relative terms, economically worse off at the beginning of the twenty-first century than they had been at independence in the 1960s. A lamentable record of poor governance, manifested in political instability, endemic corruption and civil strife, together with environmental catastrophes, such as drought, has had a disastrous effect on economic and social progress. For the majority of ordinary Africans, ‘development’, in the shape of a recognizable improvement in quality of life, has simply not occurred. In fact, some writers have described the 1980s in particular as the ‘lost decade’ as far as development in Africa is concerned (Onimode, 1992: 1). In many sub-Saharan African countries, life expectancy is still less than 50 years (compared with 79 years in the UK), infant mortality is over 100 per 1000 live births (UK is 5 per 1000) and the adult literacy rate is below 50 per cent (UK is 99 per cent) (UNDP, 2007). At a time of increasing globalization in so many different ways, Africa generally lags well behind every other region of the world. For example, in the area of telecommunications, it is a staggering fact that in the mid-1990s, before the massive advances in mobile-phone technology, there were more fixed land-line telephones in New York City than in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa (APIC, 1996).

Considering the position of Africa in the global economy, although the continent in the late 1990s and early 2000s had the world’s fastest-growing economy (Equatorial Guinea), it also included many of the world’s worst-performing economies (Collier, 1998). In the 1990s, some economists referred to the progressive ‘marginalization’ of the continent, with its steadily falling share of world exports (reflecting a deterioration in producer prices) and the declining proportion of direct private investment into developing countries that was destined for Africa. As Collier observed at the time, ‘the only international economic sphere in which Africa has remained non-marginal is aid’ (Collier, 1995: 541). In fact, for a number of African countries, aid from a variety of donor agencies, together with remittances from migrants, represents their main form of participation in the world economy. In 2004, Africa received over four times the amount of net official ODA (overseas development assistance) transfers per head of population than were received in Asia, representing 37 per cent of total world ODA transfers. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) received 11 per cent of all ODA going to Africa in 2004, amounting to $2.8 billion, a figure which represents 39 per cent of the country’s total GDP of $7.1 billion. Other major ODA recipients in 2004 were Tanzania, Ethiopia and Mozambique (each of which received $1.5 billion) (World Bank, 2007b).

Since the ‘wind of change’ brought independence to much of Africa during the 1960s, some commentators would argue that Africa has steadily lost the niche in the world economy that it had under colonialism (Agnew and Grant, 1997). Considering levels of foreign direct investment (FDI), a useful indicator of links with the global economy,

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Africa: Diversity and Development
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Plates vii
  • Figures ix
  • Tables xi
  • Boxes xiii
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - Africa- Continuity and Change 1
  • 2 - Africa’s People 33
  • 3 - African Environments 61
  • 4 - Rural Africa 103
  • 5 - Urban Africa 145
  • 6 - Health and Development 199
  • 7 - Conflict and Post-Conflict 240
  • 8 - African Economies 271
  • 9 - Developing Africa 312
  • 10 - What Future for Africa? 350
  • References 377
  • Index 406
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