Two recent studies originating in the World Bank have described
the African development situation and prescribed remedies: an article by
Uma Lele which appeared in Science in the February 6, 1981 issue
entitled "Rural Africa: Modernization, Equity, and Long-Term
Development;" and a staff study led by Elliot Berg entitled
"Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Agenda for
Action." The latter
was done at the request of the African governors of the Bank, an
indication that the crisis is not one in the minds of donors alone. The
Lagos Plan of Action, approved by the African heads of state at an OAU
meeting in April 1980, also is a testament to the urgency with which
African leaders view their development problems.
Compared with other regions, Africa has a number of disadvantages that
affect the pace of development. These are well articulated by Lele and
Berg and need only be referenced here:
factors, such as poor soils, low rainfall, and diverse ecological
conditions. These are a particular problem because most of the
world's agricultural knowledge is based upon temperate-zone
population density, raising the unit cost of transportation,
schooling, health services, agricultural extension, and other
of political cohesion, as a result of national boundaries drawn by
colonial powers with little regard for tribal or linguistic
traditions that in some cases inhibit development, such as communal
grazing of individually owned livestock, tribal allegiances, etc.
low educational levels and literacy rates.
high rate of population growth that outstrips the ability of poor
countries to provide education and health services.
addition to these inherent or inherited problems are a number of policy
problems identified by Lele and Berg as complicating the development
process. These are more controversial than the list above, and many
African leaders would disagree with t hem, but they deserve serious
attention by development professionals. They include:
agriculture is generally accorded low priority, despite the rhetoric
of national development plans.
management or control is preferred for many economic functions that
could be more efficiently performed by private enterprise.
and training tend to be neglected in favor of activities promising
more immediate results.
fertility rates are encouraged regardless of economic and social
of these factors is surprising; indeed, the list would be familiar to
one who had last worked in Africa twenty years ago. What has changed
most perhaps is the optimism with which the problems of raising incomes
and spreading benefits are now approached. Twenty years ago there was
the heady feeling that the end of the colonial era would release pent-up
African energies and lead to widespread advancement. Much has been
accomplished in these two decades, particularly in expanding education,
but there is now a more realistic understanding of rigors of the path to
development. The momentum of the independence movement has in most
countries played out, and the road ahead looks grim.
For those concerned with development, one of the most disturbing
elements of the current assessment is found in Uma Lele's observation
that the efforts of international and bilateral donors to Africa are not
really affecting long term trends.
The Donor Role
sources of development assistance have not neglected Africa, at least in
recent years. Many countries receive between $10 and $20 per year, and
some in Southern Africa receive $30-70 per capita per year. This
contrasts with Asia, where some of the poorest countries receive $2-4
per capita. The case for special attention to Africa on the part of
Western donors is fairly clear:
is the poorest region, not only in terms of per capita incomes, but
in terms of other indicators as well, such as life expectancy,
infant mortality, literacy, food consumption, and disease rates.
growth prospects for the non-oil producers are poor.
is not well situated to benefit from the growth of world trade.
African countries are unattractive to private-sector investors and
lenders because of the size of markets, political instability, and
continent is important to the industrial world. It is the source of
a number of rare natural resources needed for industry and defense,
and it has a large number of votes at the United Nations.
relative abundance of foreign assistance makes Lele's assertion that it
has had relatively little impact on long-term development the more
disturbing. In part, the limited effect is due to the magnitude of the
problems and the relatively low level of local capacity for dealing with
them. Other factors that she suggests include:
donor preference for project financing, which enhances
accountability but limits the breadth of impact of the resources.
general lack of coordination among donors, which places a heavy
burden upon inexperienced bureaucracies and often yields an
unbalanced allocation of available resources.
en masse shift of donor attentions to the rural areas in the
mid-1970s, which resulted in poor maintenance of earlier
institutional investments, and the neglect of higher levels of
education and of the policy levels of government.
frequent divergence between donor objectives and those of the host
government, a fault she ascribes largely to the desire of African
leaders for rapid "modernization."
and Berg make a number of explicit and implicit recommendations to
donors, and to African policy makers. Both believe that the most
promising route for economic advance for most sub-Saharan countries is
to develop a science-based peasant agriculture. This would require
overcoming the systematic structural and policy bias against peasant
agriculture that they find in most countries. In addition, both
recognize that faster economic growth in Africa requires accelerated
development of human resources.
feels that more effort is needed to find the appropriate balance between
immediate efforts to alleviate poverty and long-term development
requirements, an important point to which we will return. With respect
to human resource development, Lele challenges the emphasis given by
donors to primary education, vocational training, and adult instruction,
believing that high-level and secondary education have been slighted.
finds primary-level investments in education still have a higher rate of
return than investments at higher levels, but does call attention to the
need for better policy analysts, economic planners, and public service
managers. He and Lele agree on many of the highly skilled tasks that
need to be undertaken with donor assistance, such as exploration and
exploitation of natural resources, engineering and economic analysis in
the energy field, and institutional development.
aid levels are strongly recommended, but even higher priority is
assigned to the need for greater attention to peasant agriculture and
for more effective employment of existing resources.
Implications for AID
is in the process of reviewing its policies on many aspects of
development interventions. Policy papers exist in draft on such subjects
as institutional development, rural development, private enterprise, and
policy interventions. These are only in part motivated by the perception
of a development crisis in Africa, but the problems of that continent
are clearly on the minds of all authors. It is the one region where the
success of the development process in which we are all engaged is
seriously in doubt.
contribution of an outsider to the intellectual ferment in the Agency
should be designed to add yeast to the process. Although I have examined
some of AID's policy documents and program plans, what follows is in no
sense a critique of past or future AID efforts. Instead, I have drawn
largely upon my own experience in the Ford Foundation and the ISTC
Planning Office in the hope of adding a dimension to the thinking of AID
policy makers and program staff.
discussion accepts the Lele/Berg analyses as being essentially correct,
although as noted above some elements may be controversial. Several
general observations are made below before turning to possible program
responses to the key problems that emerge from the analyses.
general observations concern AID's perception of its role:
The first observation concerns the appropriate time horizon for
development assistance interventions: that is, at what point are the
benefits of an activity expected to be realized. The New Directions
mandate of the mid-1970s focused AID's objectives in a healthy way upon
meeting the basic human needs of the poor. But it makes a difference if
an activity is designed to meet the needs of people this year, next
year, in five years’ time, or in the next generation.
agencies have the ability, and some would say the responsibility, to
take a somewhat longer view than most governments, which must grapple
with pressing day-to-day matters. Some donors, such as foundations, can
often take a longer view than official donors; they are under less
legislative pressure to produce observable results. There is no optimal
time horizon for development interventions; it depends upon the nature
of the problem and the type of intervention required to meet it. In the
case of Africa, it appears from Lele and Berg that the development
crisis is chronic, likely to persist for at least a decade and probably
longer, and the nature of the problems is such that they will take a
very long time to resolve. As Uma Lele suggests, we need to find a
better balance between immediate efforts to alleviate poverty and
long-term development requirements.
A second observation concerns US comparative advantage in relation to
African development problems. When the US is the major donor, as was the
case in Korea and Taiwan in the 1950s and in Egypt today, it is
appropriate to shape the assistance program to conform to the range of
needs of a country. Given the resource limitations of the US assistance
program in sub-Saharan Africa now, it may be more appropriate to ask
what it is the US is best able to supply. The comparative advantage
factor becomes more important as the US share of the total assistance
is, for example, a serious shortage of technicians in Africa in nearly
every field. Are we the best donor from which to seek assistance in
technician training, or are we likely to be a better source of
policy-level training, management education, resource exploration and
exploitation, scientific and social research methodologies or some other
A related question concerns the breadth of activities AID conducts in a
country. The Country Development Strategy Statement (CDSS), required of
most missions annually, implies attention to all facets of a country's
development. There would appear to be substantial resource savings
available, including savings of field staff time, from a greater
concentration of AID efforts on activities it is uniquely or best
equipped to do, leaving the other problems to other donors.
is true that someone ought to
do a country development strategy statement to ensure that all critical
problems are receiving attention. Ideally, the host government would
conduct an annual review of its requirements and preferred sources of
assistance. From the donor side, perhaps the World Bank could be
encouraged to make an annual assessment of development assistance
requirements in consultation with the host government and interested
donors. That assessment could serve as the basic country analysis for
A final comment concerns equity considerations. Lele and Berg urge
increased attention to peasant agriculture because of the potential
economic gains to be made in those areas, not primarily because the
poorest people live there. In African countries, the issue of equity can
present very difficult choices. In the Sudan, for example, the people
who live near the Nile are much better off than those in the western
savannah, yet until recently most agricultural research was directed to
the problems of Nilotic agriculture rather than of the savannah. This
allocation may reflect power relationships, but it also reflects the
greater potential for increasing yields in the already more productive
region of the country.
Specific operational possibilities
observations such as these can become meaningful only in the context of
specific operational possibilities. It is, of course, difficult and
risky to propose concrete projects or programs from Washington, despite
the frequency with which it is attempted; sound country programs can
best be designed in the field missions. The examples of program
opportunities below are therefore more appropriate to the functioning of
the Science and Technology Bureau than to a field mission. The approach
used for identifying program opportunities could, however, have field
approaching a complex set of problems such as those which constrain
African development, it is sometimes helpful to consider them in the
framework of the principal tools or instruments we use for dealing with
problems; namely, policy, organization, and technology. Under these
headings we can consider the types of corrective action needed, the
comparative advantage of the US assistance program in dealing with them,
and the potential role of the S&T Bureau. Human resource development
is a crosscutting dimension that will be discussed separately, following
consideration of program opportunities under the policy, organization
and technology headings.
economic policies most criticized by Lele and Berg are those that
discriminate against peasant agriculture in favor of industry,
consumption or commercial agriculture. Examples cited are in the areas
of trade and foreign exchange policy, the allocation of resources in the
public sector, and agricultural pricing policies. Overvalued currencies,
for example, tend to subsidize imports and penalize exports, most of
which come from the agricultural sector. A good discussion of key policy
variables may be found in a draft paper on policy alternatives being
prepared by Michael Crosswell of PPC.
Bank's views on policy are not necessarily accepted by African
governments. In some cases the Bank tends to ignore political factors
that cannot be ignored by those who must live with the consequences of
the policies they impose. In other cases, the Bank may misjudge
technical factors, such as the inflationary impact of devaluation. In
general, however, the Bank is probably on the right track in the long
run. A substantial part of African policy deficiencies may be credited
to inadequate capacity for analyzing and formulating policy
a major power, the US is not well placed to supply policy advisors;
African governments are sensitive to the possibilities of undue
influence or domination. Policy advisors, where necessary, should be
supplied by the World Bank, the UNDP or smaller bilateral donors. The
private foundations have in the past been an important source of policy
advisors, but they have generally retired from the field. The US can
improve host country policy-making capacities, however, in several ways,
Special training programs for economic policy-makers have run
successfully for many years at Harvard and at Williams College. The
Kennedy School at Harvard draws on the extensive field experience of
the Harvard Institute International Development (HIID). Williams has
several excellent economists with experience in Africa.
seminars. AID could play a valuable role in helping African
policy-makers share the experience of other countries and analyze
the applicability to their own situations by sponsoring seminars for
high-level participants on well-defined policy issues. HIID is one
of the best resources in the world for mounting seminars on such
issues as exchange rate policy, agricultural pricing, and parastatal
management policies. The seminars could be held in Africa at
institutions such as the Institute for Development Studies at the
University of Nairobi or the Nigerian Institute for Social and
Economic Research at the University of Ibadan.
The impact of various policy alternatives that have been tried in
Africa needs to be analyzed more carefully than it has been to date.
AID could sponsor joint policy-oriented research projects with
African and US institutions participating. The Stanford Food
Research Center, the University of Michigan, HIID, Williams, Boston,
and other US universities have excellent skills in research
methodology and experience in Africa. Joint research projects can be
a means of strengthening the research capabilities of African
institutions. To avoid African fears of domination by academically
stronger US collaborating institutions, the projects could be funded
through the African participants. The results of the research could
of course feed into the policy seminars suggested above.
has lagged in institutional development since independence. Good
managers of large organizations are in particular short supply.
Paradoxically, African countries tend to entrust a greater share of
their economies to the public sector than any other region. Public
administration and management training has been high on the agenda of
several donors for twenty years, but the results are almost uniformly
disappointing. Berg suggests that improvements be sought through
organizing smaller parastatal organizations, forming cooperatives, and
placing greater reliance on the private sector. The private sector role
could be expanded, especially in such fields as marketing of
agricultural products, transport, and civil works.
Although the US has vast experience in training modern managers, these
skills do not transfer easily to other cultures. The Europeans and
Japanese have learned much from the US, but they have adapted our
methods to their own cultural setting and developed systems that
sometimes, like the Japanese, can outperform their mentors. This
adaptation has not happened as yet in Africa; modern management remains
an alien conception which can be acquired, but only at the cost of still
current traditional values. Public and private morality are often in
conflict, resulting in the corruption of one system or the other.
aspects of management, such as economic analysis and accounting, are
more universal than others, such as personnel practices and incentives.
Some industries, such as the airlines, have management systems dictated
by the technology and international conventions. There is much room for
experimentation and research in this field to find patterns of human
organization that function best in the African context.
For an excellent analysis of the experience of private
foundations in this area, see Francis X. Sutton, "American
Foundations and Public Management in Developing Countries"
(Appendix A). Sutton notes that “the foundations have been of more
consequence in building economic competencies than in any of the other
efforts they have made to assist the governments of developing
countries” (p. 10). This may be due to the strength of the analytical
tools of the discipline and to the pervasive role of planning ministries
in most developing countries.
review of the extensive Ford Foundation work in economic planning and
administration in East Africa, 1963-76, is found in Appendix B (C.
Nelson, "Administrative and Economic Program Review - East
Africa", March 1977).
organization and management problems of African states are so serious
that they cannot be ignored, yet the US has itself little applicable
experience in the context of African society. Perhaps our most useful
assets are methodologies for research and experimentation, and knowledge
of successful experiments in Africa and elsewhere. Some program ideas
that could be explored are the following:
private enterprise. In countries where there is no strong policy
bias against private enterprise, AID could build upon ARAMCO's
experience in creating small businesses in the Eastern Province (Nedj)
of Saudi Arabia. ARAMCO originally set up to meet all its own
logistical requirements in Saudi Arabia, but then offered its
employees financial backing and guidance to set up small businesses
to supply ARAMCO's needs. Some of the employees who took advantage
of the offer are extremely successful today. The scheme had several
advantages that it would not be easy to replicate. The employees
were known to ARAMCO, ARAMCO dominated the economic life of the
province, the industry was growing at an extraordinary rate, the
Saudis have a powerful tradition of honesty, and ARAMCO provided a
ready-made market for goods and services. Some similar conditions
could be found in Africa where mineral exploitation was a primary
industry, such as Liberia, Zambia, and Zaire. Large corporations
engaged in mineral exploitation or processing could be persuaded to
examine the ARAMCO experience and determine its applicability to
their circumstances. AID could be prepared to share in the costs,
for example by offering credit or training to fledgling
entrepreneurs. (More detailed information on the ARAMCO experience
has been requested from the company.)
successful experience in the public sector. African governments have
had a variety of experiences since independence in the management of
their public services and parastatal organizations. A US
institution, such as HIID, which has worked with parastatals in
Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania, could do case studies of the more
successful experiences in collaboration with local scholars. A
series of seminars could then be held to permit managers from a
number of countries to examine these cases and determine their
possible applicability. Examples include the organization of an
Economic Service in Kenya, which offers a separate career ladder and
training opportunities for its members, and generates professional
pride and ethics. (Described in Appendix B.)
The Berg report notes Botswana’s planning and budgeting
system (p. 34) and Senegal's public enterprise contracts system (p.
39) as successful examples.
science research. Professor Gaston Rimlinger of Rice University
conducted a study of rural social sciences in Africa in 1981. His
report to ISNAR, entitled "African Rural Social Science
Study," will shortly come to AID through that organization, but
Rimlinger has agreed to share an advance copy (Appendix C). He
proposes a twenty year program to build up the social science
capacities of African governments and research / teaching
social sciences, Rimlinger notes, have to do on the one hand with
understanding human behavior and the prediction of responses, and on
the other hand with understanding the functioning of institutions
and organizations. It takes highly trained people and a great deal
of information to analyze and predict the level and distribution of
costs and benefits of major policy alternatives, and to anticipate
the sometimes unintended consequences of social changes which
accompany economic development.
visited nine countries in Africa (Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria,
Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Upper Volta, and Zimbabwe) to survey the
quantity and quality of social scientists and the patterns of their
utilization. His recommendations involve strengthening African social
science manpower and institutions, networking, and utilization. The
dimensions of the program are potentially vast, but it involves
activities that can be tailored to the amount of funds available.
The US has a substantial share of the world's social science resources,
and should be a major participant in this program. ISNAR would
presumably manage the project.