National Capacity Building and Long-Term Development: The Role of Technical Cooperation in Africa
Sub-Saharan African development during the 1980s was characterized by an unprecedented economic decline; weakening of national and institutional capacities; and, concurrently, increasing involvement in sensitive national, sectoral, and even niicroeconomic management decisions by external forces, contrary to expectations at the time of independence twenty to thirty years ago. While it is not easy to trace causal linkages among the three, there is no doubt that the relationship has been symbiotic.
The extent of the crises has received widespread comment, one of the most recent being the World Bank's Sub-Saharan Africa: from Crises to Sustainable Growth.1 That report, coming at the end of the 1980s, summarizes dismal trends of economic decline in Africa. They include more than 20 percent decline in gross national product (GNP) in the region, with countries such as Guinea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zambia experiencing worse and precipitous declines; accelerated ecological degradation; falling per head food consumption; mounting debt, with total debt increasing from about $6 billion in 1970 to over $130 billion in 1988; and so on. Overall, with the exception of a few countries such as Cameroon, Botswana and Mauritius, the per capita GNP at the end of the 1980s stood below or at the level at the time of independence in the 1960s.
Along with the overall economic crises has been the erosion of national capacity for development. This has occurred at all levels. At the highest level it has taken the form of lack of capacity to define national development objectives, to formulate policies and programs and to implement them. At the level of institutions and production units, the same phenomenon has occurred, with many institutions lacking the requisite technical and managerial capacity to run viable establishments. Even though Sub-Saharan African countries do not have as many qualified personnel as one might want to see, the current situation has