Politik und Gesellschaft Online
International Politics and Society 1/1999

Africa's sustained underdevelopment

Preliminary version

Africa is not yet on the path to self-supporting economic growth. The satisfactory growth rates of recent years are not due to rises in productivity and higher propensity to invest but to more favourable world market prices, better harvests and the end of civil wars. The continent is suffering from structural weaknesses which in most countries can only be solved even over the longer term with a determined reform policy. In the meantime, such weaknesses continue to inhibit development. These structural weaknesses are: poor infrastructure, poor educational situation, correspondingly low productivity and high production costs despite extremely low wages. The cause is to be found in political omissions of the past, but also in socio-cultural factors which stand in the way of the development of a modern industrial society. An added difficulty lies in the consequences of a process of "nation building" which is not yet completed - political instability, widespread "rent-seeking" - as well as in inherited economic burdens (colonial export structures, debt). Increasing globalisation makes it more and more difficult for the African countries to proceed along the classical path of "developing states". On the other hand, their structural weaknesses and their absolute marginalisation in the structure of the global economy makes it impossible for them to use the opportunities offered to developing countries by globalisation. The continent is being further marginalised in the international division of labour. Foreign capital is not interested. Indeed, there is a drain of resources (brain drain, capital flight). The structural adjustment programmes of the World Bank have only tinkered superficially with the African underdevelopment syndrome. The only ray of light is offered by endogenous development potentials which lie in the urban agglomerations. Comprehensive political reforms, continuing development aid and a reduction in African external debt are needed to make use of these.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition bb&ola | Februar 1999