A new Africa in the 21st century: What policy agenda, what conditions?
The African continent is currently at a critical crossroads in its history. The seemingly unremitting economic and humanitarian crises, coupled with proliferating situations of political instability, civil strife and armed conflicts - particularly since the beginning of the 1980s - have led many to view the African situation with great despair and growing scepticism. Despite a decade and a half of economic reform and adjustment programmes in most countries, ailing African economies have yet to be 'turned around'. Economic growth rates averaged a mere 2 per cent during the 1980s, translating into per capita income declining at an average rate of 1.1 per cent per annum during this period. Contrary to expectations and the projections of numerous organizations, economic performance levels remained depressed through the first half of the 1990s, during which the regional GDP per capita grew at an even lower average rate of 1.4 per cent, causing average per capita incomes to fall by 1.6 per cent annually (ECA, 1995c). Incomes per head have fallen so steeply during the past fifteen years that it would take Africa more than half a century to return to the levels of the 1970s. African countries classed as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) mushroomed from 21 countries in 1980 to 33 in 1995 Botswana is the only country in recent years to 'graduate' from being an LDC to middle income country. The economic situation of this large group constituting 66 per cent of all African and 73 per cent of sub-Saharan countries continued to deteriorate in the 1990s. Between 1990 and 1994, the GDP average rate of growth of African LDCs, as a group, was -0.03 per cent. Against an annual average rate of growth of their population at 3.1 per cent, per capita GDP growth rates practically fell by the same rate (ECA, 1995a). Read Policy Management Report 4: