Africa’s problems

Many African leaders are quick to blame a century of European colonialism for many of the Africa’s problems. Firstly, economic backwardness in most African states could be linked with the economic system inherited by the new African nations from their colonial powers, it is evident that this system had been designed for export rather than for producing goods and services for domestic consumption.

Moreover, the export – oriented economy of each colony was directly linked with the former colonial power instend of with it’s African neighbours. (McWilliam & Piotrowski, 6th edn 2005 pg 269). Other examples for Africa’s economic and political problems due to decolonisation are attribuated to foreign dormination for example the external pressure for economic reform for African states directly from the world bank by the end of 1970s.

It stated to replace project loans to debtor less-developed countries with new ‘structual’ and ‘sectional’ adjustment facilities (structural and development Programme – SAP). The world bank was supported by the IMF, other multilateral financial institutions and western bilateral aid agencies – made the grant and disbursement of development aid conditional upon the applicant country making change to the economic policy.

Many African leaders found the conditions hard to stomach and considered them as a form of undermining there independence and racism. They included devalution, cuts in public spending, adoption of privitaisation measures and the removal of urban food and other subsisdes. This caused food riots in Zambia hence causing political instability. It is evedient that the SAPs rarely provide the predicted benefits like in north Africa, Egypt, Morrocco and Tunisia all 3 countries still remain dependent on external finance.

However, Tunisia struck a healthier balance between public and private invesitment than Egypt and Morrocco, it did so by shaping it’s own policy without following the external dicta. The most important threatening legacy of European colonialism was the artificiality of national boundaries it had created dividing Africa into colonies by European imperialists and these political boundaries were drawn with little or no recongnition of the enthic make up of Africa which remained the root of many Africa’s political problems after independence.

For instance the enthic violence in Burundi and Rwanda between the Hutus and the Tutsis was the bloodiest confrontation between blacks in Africa, this widespread violence is as a consequence of the enthic and class divisions, began as the Belgians granted independence to their colonies in 1960. (McWilliam ; Piotrowski, 6th edn 2005 pg 270 and 289) The debt problem in Africa. In the pre-independence period, the colonies in Africa were incorpated into the global capitalist econonmy dominated by the developed northern states.

A dependent relationship was established and that continued after independence. The oil companies including Nigeria accumulated high oil revenues however the boom did not last, the western countires cut back on the oil import causing a glut of oil market hence oil prices dropping. Bank interests were low initially but not fixed, they rose substanitially as inflation increased African states had to carry a crippling burden of debt servcing.

In 1980s as the value of the crops, minerals and other goods which they produced for export fell it became increasingly diffcult for these countries to earn enough foreign exchange currency to repay their debts. various ways in which the development prospects of African states might be improved have been suggested. African states might try and make a success of the existing regional economic unions or establish new unions, like ECOWAS avoid the wasteful duplication of projects, improve inter-state communications reduce external dependency.

Given that African countries are predominately agricultural steps might be taken to stem the decline of agriculture out-put and also to correct the rural-urban imbalance. These steps might include currency devalution.

Also western governments must be realistic in the aid conditions which they impose, while they have every right to deny development aid to flagrantly repressive regimes, they are on a much shakier ground in seeking to dictate the political and economical sytems which African states should adopt e. g. it is ironic that in the name of political and economic freedom, western governments should seek to deny Uganda and other African states the freedom to choose the political and economic systems which these states believe will best suit their individual circumstances and needs.

My arugument is that for western governments and aid agencies to force the pace of political reform in Africa artificially and seek to encase democracy in western mould will merely undermine what in any event is certain to be a diffcult and protracted process.

A further criterion for the grant of development aid – that African states should move towards ‘economic liberalization should also be applied with caution: partly because African governments should be free to choose their own economic system ie reform strategies designed to increase public sector efficiency may be more practical than privatization where natural resource and unititlity companies are concerned. African states like Botswana and Mauaritus have adopted a more liberal approach in their economies which has benefited them a lot.

As Gordon Brown has pointed out, badly managed globalization will lead to the marginalization of millions of people: but if managed wisely, it can lift millions out of poverty suggest that there is now a heightened awareness among western leaders of development problems in Africa. Opportunities for them to co-operate in promoting African development are eveident from a few initiatives taken e. g in 2001 the president of South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria put forward the Millenium African Plan (MAP).

This plan seeks the help of the IFIs and western governments to achieve and sustain the GDP growth rate for Africa of 7% a year for the next 15 years. Also the plan commits African rulers to fufil the conditions for aid laid out by western powers namely respect for human rights, the promotion of democracy. The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) has also been suggested. However, the prospects of a meaningful ‘New Parntnership’ emerging are remote.

Given Africa’s marginalization in the global economy, the relationship on Africa’s side is bound to be a heavily dependant one. In conclusion, what Africa desperately needs from the West are; fair terms of trade, generous development aid and speedy provision of debt relief. The outcomes for the former colonies were mixed many were unprepared for the independence and suffered many changes in government from democracy to military dictarship, from economic independence to economic backwardness.

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