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Working for a Fairer World

Action for recovery

An Oxfam report
ISBN 0 85598 245 4

Oxfam UK and Ireland 1993

Oxfam is registered as a charity, no. 202918

Printed on environment-friendly paper by Oxfam Print Services

Oxfam UK and Ireland, Oxfam House, 274 Banbury Road, Oxford 0X2 7DZ, England

This book converted to digital file in 2010

Ho- [

Executive summary: a call to action iii
Introduction v
Map of Africa vi
1 Growing poverty: Africa's 'lost decade' 1
Human welfare in decline 1
Health and education 2
Prospects for the future 3
Rising to the challenge: Oxfam's experience and response 5
2 Obstacles to recovery 7
Trade 7
Export-led collapse 7
Improving the terms 9
Diversification and protection 10
Regional trade 11
Debt 11
Paying the unpayable 12
Development finance in reverse 13
Rescheduling 13
The 'enhanced Toronto Terms' 14
The shortcomings of the 'enhanced Toronto Terms' 14
Multilateral debt 15
The International Monetary Fund 15
Towards real reform 17
Financing recovery 17
Depending on aid 17
Development budgets under threat 19
Aiding recovery 20
Improving quality 22
Structural adjustment: a failed prescription 22
The case for reform 23
SAPs and the rural poor 24
Poverty reduction 24
Towards a new approach 25
Challenging hunger 25
Conflict 26
Drought 27
Towards self-reliance 27
Africa's food-aid needs 28
Food dumping 28
Investing in the poor 29
Poverty and Environment 31
Unsustainable exports 31
Reclaiming the land 32
3 New opportunities and old threats 34
Peace and conflict 34
Supporting the peace 34
Political support 35
The role of the UN 36
Democracy and dictatorship 37 PLEASE RETURN
Political change 37
'Good governance' 38 TO OXFAM
Africa, make or break: action for recovery

Executive summary: a call to action

In recent months, conflict in Somalia, Sudan and for peace, stability and democracy are threatened by
Angola has brought the familiar images of starving formidable obstacles to recovery, including:
African children to our television screens. Their
plight has attracted deep public concern. But it has A crushing debt burden which drains the region
also reinforced the widespread view of Africa as a of over $10bn annually, diverting resources
region destined for disaster - its people the victims desperately needed for investment and poverty
of an unavoidable human tragedy. alleviation.
Oxfam rejects that view. Africa's poverty is A hostile trade environment, in which falling
deepening, especially among women and children, prices resulted in the loss of some $50bn during the
and the obstacles to development are formidable. second half of the 1980s - more than double the
But there are also new opportunities for recovery; amount that Africa receives annually in aid flows.
and for building on the resourcefulness and
ingenuity shown by African communities in Insufficient foreign aid and investment to
fighting their poverty. support recovery.
After almost two decades of armed conflict, World Bank and IMF structural adjustment
fuelled by Cold War rivalries, peace has come to programmes which have failed to create a
Ethiopia, Eritrea and Mozambique, making framework either for sustained economic recovery,
reconstruction possible - and bringing hope to or for enabling the poor to benefit from market
millions of Africa's most vulnerable people. reforms.
There is further hope in the political and
economic changes taking place in Africa. In Inadequate financial and political backing for
economic policy, governments are recognising the UN peacemaking and peacekeeping operations.
mistakes of the past; and they are implementing
reforms aimed at improving competitiveness and Such is the scale of the challenge posed by Africa's
efficiency. At the same time, popular demands for needs, that Oxfam believes the time has come for an
more representative government have generated an international plan of action to support recovery, and
impetus towards democracy and greater to invest in its people. There is a precedent for this
accountability. That impetus could make an in the Marshall Plan, through which the US invested
important contribution towards the framing of in supporting peace and democracy in post-war
redistributive policies which will ensure that the Europe. Today, Africa stands in desperate need of a
poor benefit from economic reforms. similar sense of moral purpose, political
Despite these positive developments, Africa is commitment and vision on the part of Northern
balanced on a knife edge. Without recovery, more governments.
than 300 million people - half the region's As this report argues, Africa's recovery plan
population - will be living in poverty by the end of should include measures by Northern governments
the decade; infant mortality rates, already the to:
highest in the world, will continue to rise; and 1 Reduce Africa's debt burden in order to release
vulnerability to hunger will increase. resources for investment in its people and
This human tragedy can be prevented. But economic recovery by
Africa will not recover without international
support for the efforts its people are making: its adopting the full Trinidad Terms debt relief
resources are too limited, its poverty too pervasive measures, reducing debt stock by two-thirds
and its problems too intractable. instead of the 50 per cent provided for under the
That is why Oxfam is calling for an international 'enhanced Toronto Terms'. This should be the first
plan of action to back Africa's recovery efforts, built step towards a more comprehensive write-off of
on cooperation between African communities, their between 90 per cent and 100 per cent of the debt of
governments, and the international community, and the poorest, most indebted countries.
backed by the financial resources of the industrial reducing multilateral debt stock, and halting the
world. Such a plan will need to incorporate net transfer of resources to the IMF (which has
redistributives measures, so that the poor can drained Africa of over $3bn since 1983). The
benefit from economic growth; and to recognise the reduction of IMF debt should be financed either by
key role of women in development. Northern governments through a new issue of
Unfortunately, Northern governments have Special Drawing Rights (the capital used by the
failed to seize the opportunity created by the Fund), or through the sale of IMF gold stocks.
positive changes in Africa. As a result, recent gains Unless there are fundamental reforms of the terms
iv Africa, make or break: action for recovery

and conditions attached to IMF loans, the Fund reducing the emphasis on expanding production
should be withdrawn from Africa and its role taken of primary commodities for already saturated and
over by a more appropriate agency. chronically depressed world markets;
2 Increase aid flows to support peace, democracy increasing investment in essential health and
and recovery by education services.
5 Strengthen the role of the UN to improve its
moving towards the UN target of 0.7 per cent of
ability to respond to humanitarian emergencies
GDP for aid budgets;
and to prevent and mediate in conflicts by
Britain setting a good example by providing an
fully and speedily funding UN relief and
additional 100m for African recovery in its
rehabilitation plans to cover the estimated $2.2
1993-1994 aid budget;
billion shortfall;
the EC establishing a 80m (ECU 100m) budget
increasing the recently established peacekeeping
for African recovery, and mobilising unspent Lome
reserve fund from $150 million to $400m;
Convention aid funds for use in post-war
reconstruction; making one representative, accountable to the
Secretary General, responsible for coordinating all
improving aid quality by insuring that it
UN humanitarian, diplomatic and (where
conforms to internationally-agreed guidelines for
appropriate) peacekeeping activities in each country
environmental protection, and that it is carefully
affected by conflict; and improving coordination in
evaluated for its impact on poverty in general, and
New York and Geneva between different parts of
women in particular.
the UN system;
3 Improve Africa's trading prospects by
addressing the threat posed by landmines to
financing the establishment of an African populations returning to their homes after conflict.
Diversification Fund, as proposed in the UN In particular, the international community should
Programme of Action for African Economic strengthen the 1981 Landmines Protocol to better
Recovery and Development, to support investment protect civilians from the indiscriminate use of
in processing; anti-personnel mines, and establish a fund to
support mine removal operations.
ending the subsidised disposal of agricultural
surpluses on world and regional markets; All of these interventions will require political
will backed by financial resources. In Africa, as in
reducing protectionist barriers against Africa's
other parts of the world, peace, stability and
exports. democracy does not come cheap. However, failure
4 Reform structural adjustment programmes to to act will also carry a price. That price will be borne
provide a framework for economic recovery and principally by Africans, in the form of increasing
poverty alleviation by poverty, disease, and premature death.
Even without this overwhelming humanitarian
enhancing the productive capacity of the poorest
consideration, it is not in the interests of the
producers - especially women - and most marginal international community to see Africa consigned to
areas through carefully targeted investment aimed a future of deepening poverty and conflict.
at improving people's access to resources such as Northern governments will have to meet the costs of
land and credit, and building up transport and responding to increasing numbers of humanitarian
marketing infrastructure; emergencies, and they will be faced with increased
revising loan conditions to allow selective and political instability on the international stage.
temporary protection, and investment support for
That is why Oxfam believes the industrial
industries adjusting to increased competition;
world shares a common interest with Africa in
promoting measures to achieve greater food eradicating poverty from the region - and why it
self-reliance through smallholder agriculture; must invest in a better future for Africans.
Africa, make or break: action for recovery v

Sub-Saharan Africa is on a knife edge. For more century, with frightening consequences for human
than a decade the region has been locked in a welfare. But Northern governments have the means
downward spiral of economic and social decline. at their disposal to help make recovery a possibility.
That decline, unlike the tragedies of famine and That is why Oxfam is calling on these
drought, which dominate news coverage of the governments to back an international plan for
region, has been largely invisible to the outside recovery and poverty eradication in Africa. There is
world. Yet it has spread human suffering and a precedent for this in the Marshall Plan, through
misery on an unprecedented scale. Hard-won gains which the United States used its resources to restore
in health and education have been reversed; living economic growth and protect democracy in post-
standards, already among the lowest in the world, war Europe. There is also an opportunity. For
have fallen; hunger is on the increase. And the almost half a century, East-West military
tragedy is set to deepen. On current trends, the confrontation had first call on the vast resources of
ranks of the 218 million Africans already living in the industrial world. Now there is chance to divert
poverty will increase to 300 million - equal to half these resources to the more worthwhile challenge of
the region's population - by the end of the decade. eradicating global poverty, and to the establishment
The work of Oxfam (UK and Ireland)* in Africa of a new international order built on the
is motivated by a conviction that this dismal foundations of justice and stability. What is needed
prospect can be avoided, and the fight against is the vision, political will, and sense of moral
poverty won. This conviction is based partly on our purpose to build that order.
experience of working with Africa's greatest Unfortunately, these qualities remain
resource: its people. Across the region, we have seen conspicuous by their absence from the international
chronically poor and vulnerable communities show stage. Preoccupied with more 'strategic' concerns
immense courage, ingenuity, and tenacity in elsewhere, the industrial countries have allowed
fighting poverty, against daunting odds. Their spirit Africa, the world's most impoverished region, to
of defiance starkly contrasts with the images of become increasingly marginalised. Financial
helplessness familiar to Western audiences, and it resource flows are stagnating in real terms, debt-
offers hope of a better future. relief measures have been inadequate, and there has
That hope is reinforced by wider changes in been no attempt to improve the region's external
Africa. Although armed conflict continues to scar trade environment. To make matters worse, the
the region, peace has come at last to Ethiopia, international donor community and multilateral
Eritrea, and Mozambique. After almost two decades agencies - the World Bank and International
of civil war, millions of people in these countries Monetary Fund - continue to insist on economic
now have a real opportunity for recovery and policy reforms which have manifestly failed to
reconstruction. Moves towards more accountable generate recovery, while imposing huge social costs.
and representative government are also gathering It is increasingly clear that the current economic
pace, driven by popular demands for greater prescriptions favoured by the North are hurting but
democracy. Less well-publicised than the not working. Against this background, there is a
democratic revolution which has transformed real danger of hope giving way to frustration and
Eastern Europe, these moves have been no less far- despair, jeopardising recent gains for democracy
reaching. And they have been accompanied by and stability in the process.
dramatic shifts in economic policy. Increasingly, Africans themselves want to take responsibility
governments are admitting past mistakes and for determining their future pattern of develop-
adopting painful reform measures which offer the ment. But it is up to Northern governments to help
prospect of more self-reliant growth. to create an enabling environment, in which econ-
The impetus towards peace, democracy, and omic growth on a continuing and environmentally
economic reform in Africa has opened a window of sustainable basis becomes possible. The alternative,
opportunity for development and the alleviation of which their current policies offer, is another 'lost
poverty. But that window will slam shut unless decade' for development, with the world's poorest
Northern governments show more commitment to region consigned to a future of deepening poverty,
supporting recovery. Admittedly, the challenge is a malnutrition, and disease. Above all, this will be a
formidable one. Economic stagnation, social tragedy for Africans. But it will also cast a long
breakdown, decaying infrastructures, crippling debt shadow of injustice over the whole world as we
burdens, ruinous prices for commodity exports, and enter the next century, shaming and diminishing us
environmental degradation threaten to retard all.
Africa's development prospects into the next
vi Africa, make or break: action for recovery
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 1

1 Growing poverty: Africa's lost decade

Just over 30 years ago, sub-Saharan Africa entered fall in average income caused by the current
independence with great expectations. Those recession has given rise to deep concern over living
expectations have not been fulfilled. In economic standards, even though they have risen
decline since the mid-1970s, today the region progressively over the past decade. By contrast,
accounts for 32 of the 47 nations on the UN's list of average incomes in Africa, already abysmally low,
poorest countries. Most of the citizens of these have fallen by around a quarter since the mid-1970s.
nations are worse off than they were at In 1990, incomes in the 24 poorest countries in the
independence, and they are becoming steadily region, accounting for three-quarters of the total
poorer. Reversing this decline, which the World population, averaged less than US$1 a day. In fact,
Bank has described as 'the greatest sustained inequalities in the distribution of wealth dictate that
development failure of the century', is perhaps the millions of people - including many of those with
most pressing challenge facing the international whom Oxfam works - earn even less. For them,
community in the 1990s. economic recession means increasingly inadequate
Outside Africa, it is often difficult to appreciate diets, insufficient income to clothe children and to
what the region's economic crisis has meant in buy fuel for heating and lighting homes, and
human terms. In the United Kingdom, the modest mounting susceptibility to disease.

Human welfare in decline

Statistics on income levels do not convey the full incidence of vitamin deficiency and malnutrition.
human tragedy of Africa's development crisis. Rates As in other developing regions, the low health
of infant mortality in the region are 50 per cent status of African women reflects their inadequate
higher than the average for low-income countries, control over household resources, excessive
and over 50 times higher than in the industrial workloads and a wide range of cultural practices.
world. In 1990, an estimated 4.2 million children The same combination of factors accounts for their
under the age of five died as a result of disproportionately low educational attainment.
malnutrition-related disease. Another 30 million Unacceptably high gender disparities in primary
were underweight. Millions are affected by poverty- and secondary school enrolment mean that boys are
related health problems: 20 per cent of the total 60 times more likely than girls to enjoy access to
population suffers from anaemia, 8 per cent from education. Family poverty, heavy domestic
iodine deficiency and 18 million from Vitamin A workloads, distance to school, early marriage and
deficiency. Exposure to disease is heightened by the pregnancy all contribute. But the single most
fact that two-thirds of all Africans do not have important factor is what the United Nations
access to clean water for cooking and drinking. Childrens' Fund (UNICEF) has described as 'an
Meanwhile, more than half the region's population apartheid of gender', which accords low status to
is denied access to institutional health care. Rural women, and systematically deprives them of access
areas, in which the poor are concentrated, are to the resources needed to realise their potential.
particularly badly served because of a concentration Economic crisis and the adjustment measures
of resources on urban-based curative health adopted in response to it have dramatically
provision. To make matters worse, Africa is now worsened the plight of the poor. Structural
suffering an AIDS epidemic, with the number of adjustment programmes (SAPs), implemented
HIV-positive cases having risen from 1.5 million to under the auspices of the World Bank and the IMF,
6.6 million since 1985 - a figure expected to increase have resulted in the simultaneous reduction - or
to 10 million in 1994. abolition - of food subsidies, the decontrolling of
The health of African women is considerably prices, and devaluation, which increases prices for
worse than that of men. The most striking indicator imports. Prices for basic consumer goods .such as
of their poor welfare is an unacceptably high food and fuel have risen dramatically as a result. In
* maternal mortality rate. African women are around Zambia, the decontrol of prices has resulted in the
50 times more likely to die in childbirth than women consumer price index for low-income families
in the North. Inadequate health and social-care doubling over the past 18 months. At the same time,
provision is one factor responsible for this wastage austerity measures have resulted in a sharp decline
of life. Another is inadequate nutrition, which in incomes across Africa. Oxfam has seen the
results in two-thirds of pregnant women suffering consequence of this price-income squeeze in the
from iron deficiency and a far higher- than-average Tanzanian capital of Dar-es-Salaam, where low
2 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

income groups have been forced to reduce their 1990, two-thirds of African governments were
number of daily meals from three to two, and cut spending less on health in per capita terms than in
down their intake of more expensive higher-protein 1980. Infrastructure for health care has visibly
foods. deteriorated as a result, especially in rural areas.
Child welfare, a particularly sensitive barometer Budget pressure has also prompted governments to
of social welfare, has suffered a marked recoup costs by increasing charges - or 'user fees' -
deterioration as a consequence of the fall in real for health and education services. Both the World
incomes. In Zambia, the number of children Bank and the IMF have backed this approach on the
suffering from malnutrition has risen from 1 in 20 to grounds of efficiency, but the effect has been to put
1 in 5 over the past decade. Oxfam has responded many services beyond the means of the poorest
by supporting community initiatives aimed at groups. In countries such as Ghana and Nigeria, the
maintaining nutritional standards. For example, in indiscriminate or poorly-targeted introduction of
the Kapisha compound, an impoverished settlement user fees caused a contraction in demand for
in Zambia's copper-belt, we are supporting market- services, especially preventative services such as
gardening schemes. These enable vulnerable immunisation and ante-natal care.
families partially to counteract the effects of Reduced access to already inadequate health
unemployment and falling incomes by producing provision would have dire consequences at any
food both for home consumption, and for sale on time. In the midst of a recession, where the brunt of
local markets. But at best such community costs is falling on the poor, it has been a prescription
initiatives and interventions by non-government for catastrophe. In the Zambian capital of Lusaka,
agencies provide isolated islands of hope in a sea of epidemics of diseases such as cholera and typhoid,
social and economic despair. conditions that were not life-threatening on a large
Women have been at the epicentre of the social scale a decade ago, are claiming an increasing
crisis caused by Africa's economic decline. With number of lives. Malaria, once subdued, is returning
their multiple roles in production, motherhood and as a major hazard. In West Africa diseases such as
in household labour, African women commonly yellow fever, which had been almost eradicated, are
work between 16 and 18 hours daily. This excessive gaining ground again. And the incidence of
work burden is one of the major reasons for their potentially fatal respiratory and diarrhoeal infection
poor health status - and the demands on their time among infants is increasing across the region.
are increasing. Falling household incomes have The minds as well as bodies of Africa's children
forced women to work longer hours, often taking on have suffered from the region's economic decline.
two or more occupations; to allocate additional time Rising costs of education, declining standards, and
and energy in finding cheap foods and gathering pressures on children to earn income have reversed
fuelwood (as kerosene becomes too costly); and to what was a steady improvement in school
spend more time and money tending sick children. enrolment. Primary-school enrolment rates, which
Meeting these demands has forced women to rose rapidly in the 1970s, fell from a regional
sacrifice the only two resources available: their sleep average of 78 per cent to 68 per cent in the 1980s;
and already virtually non-existent leisure time. and less than a third of children now attend
Women's employment conditions have also secondary school. This is in a region where only
deteriorated. Already less likely than men to be around two out of every three men, and one out of
employed in formal sector employment, women are every three women, are literate. The education of
more than twice as likely to be laid-off. This has a young girls has been particularly vulnerable to
negative impact on their ability to care for economic pressures, since families with limited
themselves and their children. The growing financial resources tend to withdraw their
informal sector has provided a cushion of sorts, as daughters from school rather than their sons. The
women try to meet family survival needs. But work overall result is a twin process of disempowerment.
in the informal sector produces low returns for long Africa's women are being disempowered and their
hours, and is often undertaken in unsafe and low status reinforced by increasingly inadequate
insanitary conditions, with attendant implications education; and Africa is being disempowered as the
for women's health. educational gap between itself and other parts of the
world widens.
Health and education These pressures on health and education
expenditure have serious long-term consequences
Pressure on governments to cut back on social for Africa because educated, healthy people are
expenditure, such as schools, hospitals, and essential for achieving social and economic
housing, has compounded the plight of the poor. By development. This should be readily evident to
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 3

governments in the industrial countries, which 40,000 tons of soil), and the installation of pipelines,
recognise that investment in health and education is storage facilities, and community outlets. These
essential, not only for moral reasons, but to provide committees have been assisted by water-engineers
the foundations for economic growth and future provided by the Kaganda Rural Development
prosperity. It is also evident to local communities in Centre, which Oxfam supports. As a result, around
Africa, who are seeking to maintain health and 24,000 people now benefit from access to clean
education services through local initiatives. water.
Oxfam is supporting their initiatives through its This is just one illustration of the perseverance of
involvement in primary health care, sanitation, and poor people in the face of adversity. However,
other projects across the region. An example is the community initiative cannot be a substitute for
Kisiga water supply project in western Uganda, public investment in the effective provision of basic
where local communities have assumed welfare services. That is why this report argues for
responsibility for maintaining clean water supplies support from the international community to enable
in the face of a collapse of government services. African governments to invest in their people.
Elected village water committees have overseen the
digging of trenches (which involved moving some

Table 1: Poverty in the developing world 1985-2000

Percentage of population below Number of poor (millions)
the poverty line
Region 1985 1990 2000 1985 1990 2000
All developing countries 30.5 29.7 24.1 1,051 1, 133 1,107
South Asia 51.8 49.0 36.9 532 562 511
East Asia 13.2 11.3 4.2 182 169 73
Sub-Saharan Africa 47.6 47.8 49.7 184 216 304
Middle East & North Africa 30.6 33.1 30.6 60 73 89
Eastern Europe 7.1 7.1 5.8 5 5 4
Latin America & the Caribbean 22.4 25.5 24.9 87 108 126
Source: World Bank: World Development Report 1992 (Washington, World Bank)

Prospects for the future population growth rates mean that the region's
economies need to expand by over 3 per cent a year,
Grim as the experience of the 1980s was, things are simply to keep incomes constant. This has
getting steadily worse. On current trends, more than prompted some to argue that Africa's development
nine million people will fall below the poverty line crisis is, essentially, a 'population problem' - and
each year for the rest of the decade, making Africa that reduced population growth is the key to
the only developing region in which the proportion Africa's recovery. Oxfam regards this view as
of the population in poverty rises. (See Table 1.) As simplistic. In many countries, rapid population
a result of these trends, Africa has the further tragic increase does contribute to a cycle of low growth and
distinction of being the only region in which child poverty. But the linkages between population,
welfare is set to deteriorate. The United Nations poverty and economic growth are complex. At one
Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that by the level, rapid population growth is itself a symptom
year 2000 African children will account for 39 per of poverty. For example, high infant mortality rates
cent of infant deaths worldwide - compared with 29 and the prospect of insecurity in old age encourage
per cent in the mid-1980s. people to have larger families. This is why rising
Averting this deterioration in huuman welfare living standards are usually accompanied by a slow
depends critically on economic recovery. Rapid down in population growth. There is an even more
4 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

powerful correlation between improvement in the Nigeria) was under 2 per cent, so that average
status of women and reduced birth rates. Access to incomes continued to fall. Agricultural and
education, effective family-planning services, the industrial production levels have expanded at less
provision of employment opportunities beyond than half the target rate set by the World Bank, and
child bearing, and the right of women to decide for investment levels, one of the main determinants of
themselves how many children they will have and recovery, have not recovered. These are now
when, are particularly important determinants of hovering around 16 per cent of Gross Domestic
population growth rates. Product (GDP) - a quarter lower than in 1980 and
Sustained economic growth is essential if the link well below the 25 per cent level which the World
between population increase and poverty in Africa Bank estimated was needed to sustain recovery.
is to be broken. Some indication of the scale of More recent projections of Africa's economic
growth required was provided by the World Bank prospects (in the World Bank's 1992 World
in a 1990 report, Sub-Saharan Africa: from crisis to Development Report) suggest that the rate of growth
sustainable growth. This estimated that a growth rate of per capita income in sub-Saharan Africa is unlikely
of between 4 per cent and 5 per cent would be to exceed 0.3 per cent a year for the rest of the
needed for the rest of the decade to provide for a century. This is well below the anticipated increase
modest improvement in income, employment, and in other developing regions, and in the North (Table
nutrition. Without recovery on this scale, Africa will 2), and it would be entirely inadequate for a
become increasingly unable to feed and clothe its sustained assault on poverty. In reality, however,
people, to educate a school-age population rising by even this modest target is likely to prove unduly
over 4 million annually, and to provide jobs for a optimistic, since it is based on the dubious
labour force which is set to double in size over the assumption that growth in the industrial world will
next 30 years. With unemployment already affecting recover to average over 3 per cent a year; and the
100 million people (four times as many as in 1979), almost certainly flawed assumption that prices for
the implications for human welfare of continued Africa's commodity exports will not worsen.
economic stagnation are obvious. Against this background the prognosis is for a
Unfortunately, the World Bank's 1990 target now future of continued economic decline, with
appears wildly optimistic. During the first two years inevitable implications for the welfare of poor
of the 1990s, growth for the region (excluding people.

Table 2: Growth of real per capita income

in industrial and developing countries, 1980-2000
(average annual percentage change)

Country Group 1980-1990 1990 1991 1990-2000

High-income countries 2.4 2.1 0.7 2.1
Developing countries 1.2 -0.2 -0.2 2.9
Sub-Saharan Africa -0.9 -2.0 -1.0 0.3
Asia and the Pacific 5.1 3.9 4.2 4.8
East Asia 6.3 4.6 5.6 5.7
South Asia 3.1 2.6 1.5 3.1
Middle East & North Africa -2.5 -1.9 -4.6 1.6
Latin America & the Caribbean -0.5 -2.4 -0.6 2.2
Source: World Bank: World Development Report, 1992 (Washington: World Bank)
Note: Figures in the last column are a projection.
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 5

Rising to the challenge: Oxfam's experience and response

Oxfam works in 25 African countries and has offices traditional practice of community seed storage.
in most of them. In 1992, 80 senior members of staff Money was provided for buildings and training in.
and hundreds of support staff were responsible for the treatment of seeds so that they would keep
managing and administering grants worth 23 better. Each seed bank was managed by a
million, funding 1,200 projects across the continent. representative village committee who were
During the year Africa received 62 per cent of all responsible for its upkeep and the distribution of
Oxfam's overseas grants. seeds to outlying villages before the rains arrived.
Each project, whether a full-scale emergency The scheme worked; next season's harvest was
relief operation or a long-term development saved. Not only that, but representatives from each
initiative, relies on the involvement of local people if of the seed-bank committees went on to form a
it is to be effective. This means listening to people, group to tackle some of the wider development
particularly women. Oxfam has found that develop- issues at a district level. The Kebkabiya Small-
ment that does not take into account the needs of holders Charitable Committee is working on
women does not tackle poverty. AU Oxfam projects improved farming practices, women's literacy and
have a gender component which ensures that development, animal traction projects, and provid-
women's voices are heard and their needs are ing a community pharmacy for livestock. Oxfam has
addressed. supported KSCC throughout its development with
Building on African's strong tradition of self- funding and training and will soon hand over full
reliance is central to Oxfam's work. Commun-ities responsibility for the project to KSCC.
do not sit back and wait for Oxfam to arrive with The community developments in Darfur, which
ready-made solutions to their problems. Instead, have grown out of the crisis of famine, have been
with the odds stacked heavily against them, people impressive; 60,000 people benefit from the project.
show great resourcefulness and ingenuity in And there are examples of this kind of approach to
tackling their poverty, finding solutions that may relief work across Africa. In Somalia Oxfam is
require only modest inputs from Oxfam to bring responding to the crisis there by providing relief
substantial improvements in living standards. supplies and seeds and tools for agricultural
This self-reliance has proved crucial in times of rehabilitation. 75,000 has been spent so far on
crisis. Looking at news coverage of the. famine in the helping to re-start food production, encouraging
Horn of Africa during the mid-1980s it would be refugees back from the towns to the countryside. In
easy to be left with the impression that Western Zambia Oxfam helped to distribute food to over
intervention was wholly responsible for saving 350,000 people in the Eastern province as part of a
thousands from starvation. In fact, of the food that food-for-work scheme where local communities
was effective in preventing starvation, only 10 per rebuilt vital infrastructure, such as schools and
cent of food needs in West Sudan was met by wells, in return for food.
Western donors. Local populations fell back on While some African countries such as Angola
traditional ways of coping with drought to provide and Rwanda continue to suffer war, others are
the rest. emerging from decades of conflict and communities
are looking to Oxfam for help in rebuilding their
Relief and recovery lives. In Ethiopia and Eritrea, for example, where
Oxfam has helped to increase agricultural prod-
Oxfam is perhaps best known for its headline- uction, food security is much improved. With the
grabbing relief work in emergency situations, and is signing of a peace accord, rehabilitation work is pos-
often among the first agencies to arrive with tents sible in Mozambique for the first time in years.
and technicians. But relief work is a sticking-plaster Oxfam is scaling up its programme there, providing
approach to emergencies and does not provide food aid, seeds and tools to enable demobilised
lasting solutions to the problems faced by poor soldiers and refugees to resettle and plant their land.
communities. That is why, in times of crisis, Oxfam Establishing a basis for recovery in the midst of
also provides resources for long-term recovery, relief programmes is Oxfam philosophy. To
laying the foundations for future development. In paraphrase part of our mission statement: 'Oxfam
Darfur, Sudan, in the mid-1980s, drought and responds to urgent humanitarian need and helps
famine brought suffering and hunger to hundreds local people to reduce their vulnerability to future
of thousands. As a last resort people began to eat the emergencies.' But can this type of support for
stocks of millet and sorghum seed intended for next grassroots development, as seen at Darfur, be
season's harvest, despite an emergency feeding sustained across the continent and bring about
programme. On local advice Oxfam supported the economic revival? Community development proj-
construction of seed banks, building on the ects - essentially a 'micro' approach to poverty - can
6 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

only achieve so much before they come up against Oxfam has also supported community-based
harsh 'macro' realities, such as debt, government land conservation and environmental protection
austerity programmes, and conflict. (The Darfur projects. In one village in Burkina Faso 270 hectares
programme was halted twice by war in neigh- of unproductive land have been saved from erosion
bouring countries which spilled over in to Sudan.) and brought back into production, providing food
Even if Oxfam and other non-governmental for over 1,000 people.
organisations (NGOs) - both Northern and a In countries where governments have been
growing number of indigenous groups - had an forced to cut back on social services just to pay off a
unlimited capacity to support grassroots develop- small part of their debt, many communities have
ment in Africa, the continent's recovery would still organised themselves to provide their own services.
be in doubt. Which is why Oxfam promotes policy In Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi,
changes, nationally and internationally, aimed at Oxfam has helped to promote primary health care,
reducing poverty and injustice; speaking out on especially for mothers and children, in communities
behalf of the poor. where the collapse of state-funded health provision
has put many medical services out of reach.
Increasingly, and worryingly, Oxfam is being asked
Sustainable development to fill some of the gaps in social services left by the
Three-quarters of Oxfam's grants to Africa are spent structural adjustment programmes sponsored by
on conflict-related work, and that proportion is the IMF and the World Bank.
increasing. But Oxfam also supports African Throughout Africa, Oxfam is working with
communities that are involved in less dramatic, people in a process of change. People are identifying
though no less challenging, obstacles to their common goals and working together to empower
development. Lack of access to land, education, themselves, bringing lasting improvements to their
health and jobs has left many African people living lives in a sustainable manner. Much has been
in poverty. Oxfam works in many different achieved, and the opportunities that are presenting
communities, supporting the efforts of poor people, themselves today, in the form of economic and
especially women, to secure sustainable livelihoods, political reform, hold out the prospect of a new era
fundamental rights and access to basic services. of development for Africa. The road to recovery can
Many rural people in Africa could be self- be taken if the efforts of local people at grassroots
sufficient in food if they had greater access to land. level are supported by the international community.
Africa could feed itself. In the words of one farmer: The following pages present an analysis, based
'We are poor, but we are not beggars. What we want on Oxfam's experience as a Northern NGO working
is to eat. In order to eat we must have land on which in Africa, of the threats to and oppor-tunities for
to raise our cattle and crops.' This is the rationale recovery for Africa. It is addressed to a Northern
behind Oxfam's support of nomadic herders in audience, and highlights the responsi-bilities of
Burkina Faso, Mali and Kenya. Through local Northern governments and institutions for ensuring
groups such as the Kenya Pastoral Steering Com- that African recovery takes place. However, the
mittee and the Arid Lands networking project, new growing number of African NGOs that are
agricultural practices and ideas are exchanged emerging in the current climate of political reform
which are bringing greater productivity and food and opportunity, many of whom we work with,
security to areas with poor soils and unpredictable would want us to emphasise that it is Africans
weather. themselves who have the right and the capacity to
take control of their own development and future.
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 7

2 Obstacles to recovery
African governments have taken bold - and polit- import prices continued to rise. This caused a sharp
ically unpopular - measures to engineer recovery deterioration in Africa's terms of trade, with the
through market-oriented reforms, aimed at creating purchasing power of the region's exports having
greater efficiency and competitiveness. As we fallen by some 50 per cent since the early 1980s.
suggest below, flaws in the design and implement- Moreover, this regional average obscures the even
ation of these reforms, introduced under the more marked deterioration suffered by individual
tutelage of the World Bank and IMF, have reduced countries. In 1986, coffee provided Uganda with
their intended impact. But the persistence of $365 million in foreign-exchange earnings and
Africa's crisis also reflects the crushing effect of financed about 70 per cent of its imports. By 1991 it
external constraints to recovery. Paramount among yielded only $115 million, and financed less than a
these are a hostile external trade environment, the quarter of imports. Overall, the slump in
burden of unserviceable foreign debt, and inade- commodity prices cost Africa $50bn in lost earnings
quate financial support. International action to between 1986 and 1990 - more than twice the
remove these constraints is vital if Africa's reforms amount the region receives in aid.
are to be given a chance. Deteriorating terms of trade, combined with
rising debt-service payments and a sharp contrac-
Trade tion in foreign investment, have caused a marked
contraction in Africa's capacity to import. Even
Sub-Saharan Africa relies far more heavily on trade though export volumes expanded throughout the
than on aid for its economic prosperity, with 1980s, foreign-exchange earnings fell from $65bn for
imports and exports accounting for about half the 1981-85 to $55bn for 1986-1990. With aid and other
region's GDP. It follows that trade performance has inflows of foreign exchange failing to make up the
a critical bearing on Africa's prospects for recovery shortfall, import volumes fell by 8.2 per cent a year
- even though the region is an insignificant player in the first half of the 1980s, and by 4.6 per cent in
on world markets, its share of world trade having the second half. This process of 'import strangula-
fallen from 3 per cent to just over 1 per cent over the tion' left local industries, most of them already
past two decades. Export markets provide the operating below capacity, starved of essential
foreign exchange needed to import the goods and inputs. Their ability to export and even to compete
services required for economic development, and against imports on local markets suffered as a
they generate income and employment. Over the result, adding to balance-of-payments pressures.
past decade, however, Africa has been badly hit by These became increasingly severe, despite the cut in
a marked deterioration in these markets. Unless that imports, with the region's trade deficit almost
deterioration can be halted through international doubling to $7.5bn in the second half of the 1980s.
action, there is little prospect of economic recovery The collapse in international commodity prices
taking root. seriously undermined structural adjustment prog-
rammes (SAPs) sponsored by the World Bank and
Export-led collapse IMF, which have been premised on the assumption
that sub-Saharan African economies can export their
At the heart of sub-Saharan Africa's trade crisis has way to recovery. But these programmes have also
been a protracted depression in world commodity contributed to the crisis in world commodity mar-
markets. More than any other developing region, kets. They have done so by encouraging countries
sub-Saharan Africa depends on primary commod- producing a narrow range of commodities to
ities - such as coffee, cocoa, cotton, and copper - to expand production simultaneously, for already
generate the foreign exchange needed to buy saturated markets characterised by relatively fixed
imports. Overall, some 85 per cent of all the region's levels of demand. In commodities such as cocoa,
exports derive from this source, with the vast where Africa accounts for a major share of world
majority of countries depending heavily on just one supply, increased exports have probably made a
or two commodities. (See Table 3.) In the cases of significant contribution to the collapse of world
Uganda and Zambia, coffee and copper respectively prices. In effect, SAPs have had the effect of forcing
account for more than 90 per cent of export earn- the region to struggle up a downward-moving
ings; and coffee and cocoa alone account for more escalator: expanding its export production for
than a quarter of the foreign-exchange earnings of diminishing foreign-exchange returns. For example,
14 countries. between 1986 and 1989, cocoa exporters in West
During the 1980s, prices for most commodities Africa increased their output by a quarter, only to
fell dramatically, in some cases to their lowest levels see foreign-exchange receipts fall by a third as
in real terms since the Great Depression, while prices collapsed.
8 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

Apart from generating problems for the balance other assistance to marginal farmers producing
of payments of commodity-exporting countries, the cotton. That assistance contributed to a good harvest
slump in world commodity prices has eroded the in 1992, but farmers were able to market only a
ability of African governments to maintain small part of their crop because of the collapse of
investment in infrastructure, by reducing revenues transport infrastructure. The result: vulnerable
from exports. Oxfam has direct experience of the families were left with a smaller household income,
resulting vicious circle of economic decline. In the and Tanzania with less of the foreign exchange that
Meatu District of Tanzania we have been involved it desperately needs.
since the mid-1980s in providing loans, inputs, and

Table 3: Commodity dependency of African countries in which Oxfam works

Primary commodities as a % Country Individual commodities as a %

of total export earnings of total export earnings
99.9 Mauritania (iron ore 45.0/fish 42 0)
99.7 Zambia (copper 98 0)
97.9 Rwanda (coffee 73.0}
97.9 Niger (uranium 85.0)
95.1 Burundi (coffee 87.0)
95, Uganda (coffee 95.0)
95.0 Namibia (diamonds 40.0/uranium 24.0)
94.7 Somalia (live animals 76.0)
93.4, Malawi (tobacco 55 0/tea 20.0)
aao' Ethiopia (coffee 66.0)
8*8.9 Burkina Faso (cotton 48 0)
88.5 Sudan (cotton 42 0)
8-4.3 Mali (live animals 58 O/cotton 29.0)
: 83.3 ,' Togo (phosphates 47 0)
&2.0 Guinea Bissau (cashew nuts 29.0/groundntits 23.0)
" ' M S - ' Tanzania (coffee 40.0)
Mozambique (fish 27.0/prawns 16.0)
72.0.. , Chad (live animals 58.0/cotton 29 0)
, 71.6 , ' Senegal (fish 32 0)
Zaire (copper 58 OJ
$B.S ~ - Ghana (cocoa 59.0)
Sierra Leone (diamonds 32.0)
BMJ? Kenya (coffee 30.0)
Ms. . Zimbabwe (tobacco 20.0)
' 48,0'- " * Gambia (groundnuts 45.0)
. to. riwuijj. " s m ; ^ ;y . ^
Lesotho (mohair 24.0)
Angola (95.8 inc. oil)
Source: Belinda Coote: The Trade Trap: Poverty and the Global Commodity Markets (Oxford: Oxfam, 1992)
Note: Table shows primary commodities, excluding fuel, as a percentage of total exports for 1982-1986
(showing the percentage of the individual commodity where it exceeds 20 per cent of total exports).
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 9

Improving the terms reduce Africa's dependence on commodities. There

is no constructive purpose in relentlessly expanding .
With commodity markets continuing to deteriorate the production of raw materials for world markets
in the 1990s, there is a real danger of Africa's export- which, because of technological changes and
led decline continuing. World coffee prices were relatively static demand in the North, are set to
halved following the collapse of the International remain chronically over-supplied and depressed.
Coffee Agreement in 1989, costing African prod- The challenge is to promote diversification into
ucers an estimated $3.2bn over the following three more valuable processed goods - the kind of
years. In 1992, cocoa prices slumped to their lowest- production which has been the key to South Asia's
ever levels in inflation-adjusted terms. And worse is success. Apart from reducing dependence on
to come. The World Bank predicts no significant volatile and depressed commodity markets,
upturn in commodity prices until 1995 at the increased investment in local processing would
earliest, and coffee and cocoa prices are not expec- generate employment and income for Africa's
ted to 'recover' to their (depressed) levels of the labour force. It would also enable the region to
1980s until after 2000. retain a greater share of the value of its exports. This
Against this background, international co- is important because foreign control over processing
operation to improve Africa's trade prospects is and marketing, which is where the bulk of value is
vital. In the short term, increased finance to added to commodities, means that less than one-
compensate producers for falling world prices, such tenth of the final value of Africa's coffee and cocoa
as that provided through the Stabex fund of the exports remains in the region. The result is a huge -
European Community's Lome Convention, could be albeit heavily disguised - transfer of resources from
stepped up. The re-negotiation of the Lome Con- Africa to the industrial world, and to the giant
vention due to take place in 1993 offers an conglomerates which control international trade in
opportunity for the Community to take a lead in food and beverages.
this area. But in the long run, measures are needed Oxfam is working to create a better trade
to stabilise prices for commodities - especially environment for Africa, both by supporting fairer
coffee and cocoa - at more realistic levels. trading initiatives and by increasing consumers'
This can be achieved only by bringing supplies awareness of the problems that the region faces. For
back into line with demand, thereby ending the example, we are directly involved in marketing
current glut on world markets. African and other coffee - Cafedirect - bought directly from
governments in the South could contribute to this smallholder farmer co-operatives. These co-
goal by restricting supplies. Their lack of co- operatives receive a price significantly above world
ordination in this area, disagreements over market market levels, because there is no transfer of profits
shares, and the pressure to generate foreign to intermediary traders and. Northern transnational
exchange have been partly responsible for the companies. This initiative is now being extended
slump in world markets, with exporters desperately through the Fairtrade Foundation - established by
trying to expand their market share to offset Oxfam and other development agencies - which
adverse price trends. This is a zero sum game, even will give a 'seal of approval' to companies
for exporters such as Malaysia and Indonesia, who marketing goods produced under socially and
have played no small part in undermining com- environmentally acceptable conditions.
modity agreements in coffee and cocoa. Apart from creating new market outlets for
However, welcome as improved South-South co- smallholder producers, the aim of this initiative is to
operation on commodities would be, it will need to provide consumers with information about the
be backed by North-South commodity agreements. social and environmental conditions under which
Sadly, these appear to be a distant prospect. As the the commodities which they purchase are
United Nations Conference on Trade and Devel- produced. That information will help consumers to
opment has put it: 'International co-operation on become more aware of the links between themselves
commodity issues is now at its lowest point since and producers in the South. It will enable them to
the 1960s'. Northern governments remain implac- make responsible and informed decisions about
ably opposed to international commodity pacts, what to buy, and to use their power as consumers to
which they see as inherently inflationary. The give a better deal to producers in the South. This is
resulting deadlock has blocked progress towards the first step on the road towards a new type of
new agreements on coffee and cocoa. Unless it can consumerism, in which market choices are
be broken - and quickly - Africa's future will governed by something more than a search for
remain bleak indeed. bargain-basement prices, which consign vulnerable
For the future, every effort must be made to communities in the developing world to poverty.
10 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

Diversification and protection beans it is 4.3 per cent and on chocolate 11.8 per
cent. This tariff escalation has the effect of
Despite the importance of initiatives to encourage reinforcing Africa's dependence on primary
fairer trade, Oxfam recognises that consumer power commodities by discouraging investment in local
in the North has its limits as an instrument for processing.
supporting economic recovery in Africa. Real Even in the EC, where it enjoys preferential
change will require action on the part of Northern market access under the terms of the Lome
governments, who must back Africa's diversifi- Convention, Africa faces trade barriers. (See Table
cation efforts with increased resources, and more 4.) These are especially marked in products covered
liberal trade policies. Diversification away from by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) - such as
primary commodities into export-based processing sugar, beef, and vegetables - which are subject to a
is possible only if sufficient capital is made wide range of quotas and marketing restrictions.
available, and markets in the industrial world are Moreover, the EC continues to produce excess
opened up to allow African exports to compete. agricultural output and dump the surplus on world
This is why Oxfam strongly supports UN markets. In the case of sugar, an important export
proposals to establish an African Diversification crop for Africa, the EC is now the world's largest
Fund, and for the strengthening of existing facilities exporter, and these exports have substantially
- such as UNCTAD's Common Fund for Com- depressed world prices. Quite apart from the
modities - aimed at supporting investment in excessive cost of the CAP to European taxpayers, its
processing. At the same time, trade barriers must be damaging effect on poor farmers in the South,
lowered. Tariffs which discourage local manufac- unable to compete in markets distorted by subsid-
turing are imposed by industrial countries on many ised exports, makes a compelling case for more
exports from Africa. For instance, the average tariff effective reforms than those so far initiated to
on cocoa beans is only 2.6 per cent, but on processed reduce surplus production.

Table 4: Trade Barriers on Exports from Sub-Saharan Africa

Tariffs and ad-valorem equivalents
for nontariff barriers, percentage protection
Product EC Japan USA
Fish and preparations 9.2 28.9 7.2
Fruits and vegetables 13.5 86.6 7.7
Beverages 0.1 0.1 0.0
Tobacco 46.0 0.0 10.3
Textile fibers 3.2 0.1 2.6
Petroleum products 0.2 3.9 0.6
Vegetable Oils 1.3 4.3 0.0
Chemical elements 1.9 4.7 5.6
Fertilizers 2.1 0.0 0.0
Plastic materials 10.5 4.8 4.6
Textiles 6.1 13.5 11.7
Nonmetallic manufacturing 0.4 2.9 0.7
Nonferrous metals 0.2 0.8 2.7
Nonelectric machinery 4.0 3.2 2.5
Transport equipment 2.6 0.0 2.4
Furniture 21.8 4.7 2.5
Clothing 42.2 19.4 52.1
Manufacturing, not specified elsewhere 8.3 0.6 1.8
Source: Global Coalition for Africa: African Social and Economic Trends (1992)
(Washington: Global Coalition for Africa)
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 11

One of the ironies of North-South trade relations indefinitely those parts of a GATT agreement from
in recent years is that the industrial countries, while which Africa could benefit. That is why Oxfam
preaching free trade, are becoming increasingly believes there is a strong case for implementing at
protectionist. Since the early 1980s, the United States an early stage those parts of the GATT accord which
and European Community in particular have would benefit developing countries, irrespective of
resorted to a wide range of non-tariff barriers - such the ultimate fate of the Uruguay Round.
as 'voluntary export restrictions' and quotas -
aimed at commodity-exporting countries of the
South. There is a further irony in that the same
Regional trade
governments have used their domination of the Increased regional trade could play a positive role
World Bank and IMF to press developing countries, in supporting efforts at diversification. Although
including those in Africa, into more liberal trade African economies are extremely open, regional
policies. As a recent study by the Ford Foundation trade accounts for only some 5 per cent of the
noted, countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana region's total trade flows. Clearly, the expansion of
have undertaken particularly radical measures to this trade is not an answer to Africa's economic
reduce restrictions on imports. These policies, which crisis. But it could contribute to the development of
provide local industries with better access to larger markets capable of sustaining manufacturing
imported machinery, are designed in large measure industries, and to long-term development objectives
to pave the way to export-led recovery. Yet by such as increased food self-reliance. Additionally,
closing their own markets, the industrial countries regional trade could cushion the adverse effects of
are undermining the conditions needed for such recession in the industrial economies, and provide
programmes to succeed. scope for diversification.
Deepening trade tensions and imbalances African governments themselves should do far
between the USA, the EC, and Japan, combined more to develop regional trade by reducing barriers,
with the uncertainty surrounding the future of the co-ordinating investment strategies, and
GATT world trade talks, poses the threat of undertaking joint investment in infrastructure. The
increased protectionism in the North. In the face of Economic Community of West African States
this threat, Oxfam believes that Northern (ECOWAS), encompassing 16 countries, and the ten
governments should undertake binding commit- countries of the Southern African Development
ments to 'roll back' existing protectionist measures Community (SADCC) have a well established basis
aimed at exports from the South (something they for future co-operation. However, long-term
agreed to do at the outset of the Uruguay Round in development in this area will require substantial
1986), and not to introduce new barriers. external finance. The EC is well placed to provide
In relation to the GATT talks, Africa is in an both this finance and technical support for African
anomalous position. As the weakest member of the initiatives, since the promotion of regional trade is a
international trading system, with limited central objective of its aid programme. But in
retaliatory capacity, it has an obvious interest in the addition to extra finance, Northern governments
survival of a rules-based multilateral system, and in will need to reverse the current emphasis of
averting a return to 1930s-style trade policies - the structural adjustment programmes, which attach
likely result of a collapse of the Uruguay Round. primacy to increasing exports for the world market,
However, the GATT agreement now under in favour of a more self-reliant regional strategy.
consideration envisages generalised import liberal-
isation in industrial-country markets. This would
reduce Africa's preferences in the EC, exposing the
region to increased competition from more 'External debt is a millstone around the neck of
powerful Latin American and Asian exporters. Africa ... Easing the continent's debt burden must be
According to one estimate, a GATT accord on a priority for the international community.' This
tropical products could cost Africa $66m in lost stark assessment by the UN Secretary General,
foreign-exchange earnings for coffee alone (1987/88 Boutros Boutros Ghali, is one which Oxfam shares.
prices). Given the precarious state of Africa's So, in their public statements, do the governments
economies, their dependence on EC markets and the of the industrial countries. Yet successive debt-relief
steady erosion of their world-market shares over the initiatives have done little more than apply ill-
past decade, there is an overwhelming case for conceived, short-term palliatives to what is arguably
protecting the region's preferences. At the same the most intractable obstacle to Africa's recovery.
time, differences between the US and the EC over Unless this approach is abandoned, and measures to
agricultural policy must not be allowed to postpone reduce debt-service payment to levels compatible
12 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

with long-term development needs are speedily twice the average annual income level. Meanwhile,
adopted, Africa's economic reforms will remain Mozambique is embarking on a programme of post-
doomed to failure. war reconstruction shackled by a foreign debt equal
to four times its national income.
Paying the unpayable There is another important difference between
Latin American and African debt. Whereas the
Africa's debt crisis can be traced to the 1970s when, former comprises mainly commercial credit, in
in the face of declining commodity prices and rising Africa official debt accounts for about two-thirds of
import costs, governments (encouraged by the total. About two-thirds of this is bilateral debt,
international financial institutions) resorted to some 80 per cent of which is owed to the countries
heavy borrowing to sustain imports and investment. of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
This debt-led strategy for growth collapsed under Development (OECD). Around half of bilateral debt
the twin pressures of rising interest rates and is concessional, with long repayment periods and
declining terms of trade in the early 1980s. Fiscal low interest rates. Multilateral debt, owed mainly to
deficits in the USA and other industrialised the World Bank and the IMF, increased in
countries have kept interest rates high in real terms importance in the 1980s as credit from other sources
until recently. The legacy is a financial crisis which, dried up and repayments mounted. Currently,
for more than a decade, has deepened Africa's multilateral debt accounts for around 26 per cent of
poverty and undermined recovery efforts. sub-Saharan Africa's total stock, compared with 19
Between 1980 and 1992, sub-Saharan Africa's per cent in 1980.
debt more than tripled to around $183 billion. (See This debt profile has important implications, for
Table 5.) Compared with Latin America's debt of two reasons. Firstly, the growing importance of the
$446bn, this total may appear small. It is less, for IMF and World Bank as creditors has made debt
example, than the combined debts of Brazil and management less flexible. Neither agency is
Mexico. Yet Africa is considerably more 'debt- permitted, under existing rules, to reschedule or
distressed' than Latin America. During the 1980s, write-off debt; and repayments to both have to be
the region's debt increased from the equivalent of 28 met in full - while bilateral creditors typically
per cent of its Gross National Product (GNP) to 109 receive only around a quarter of their scheduled
per cent. This compares with 37 per cent for Latin payments. Secondly, because Western governments
America. In other words, sub-Saharan Africa owes and multilateral institutions controlled by them
more than it earns. Every Zambian women, man, account for the overwhelming bulk of Africa's debt
and child now has the dubious privilege of owing burden, the primary responsibility for reducing that
the country's creditors around $766 - more than burden falls on them.

Table 5: Debt in sub-Saharan Africa (1980-1992)

1980 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992

Total debt stock 56.2 98.7 116.0 142.8 145.7 153.9 172.6 178.0 183 4
(of which interest 0.2 5.3 7.5 10.8 17.7 18.9 23.9 29.6
& principal arrears)

Principal repayments 2.9 6.6 5.9 5.2 5.4 5.1 60 5.1 5.3
Interest repayments 3,3. 4.7 4.2, 3.6 4.7 4.5 48 5.2 4.8
Total debt service :.6.2 11.3 w.i' 8.8 10.1 9.6 10.8 10.3 10.1
Debt servicing/exports 26.8 22.1 24.7 21.8 20.0 19.8 18 5
of goods and services (%)

Total debt/GNP (%) 56.1 74.5.'. 97.4 97.1 103.0 106 7 109.6 108 8
Source: World Bank: World Bank Debt Tables, 1992-93 (Washington: World Bank)
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 13

Development finance in reverse estimated that the economy - which contracted by 6

per cent last year - will need to mobilise $1 billion
There is a common misconception in the North that annually for 1993-1995 to cover debt-service
Africa is a bottomless pit into which Western payments.
finance is poured. In fact, despite its abject poverty,
desperate shortages of foreign exchange, and low
investment, Africa disbursed $81.6bn in debt Rescheduling
payments between 1985 and 1992 alone. These Extensive default on Africa's debt has been
payments diverted government spending from prevented only by repeated rescheduling
desperately needed social expenditure. In Tanzania, operations, in which official creditors, meeting in
for example, interest payments have absorbed a the Paris Club, have allowed interest and future
greater share of the government budget than either debt charges to accumulate by deferring payments.
health or education since the mid-1980s. Debt More than 30 African governments have been
servicing is also draining the region of almost a forced to reschedule, many of them repeatedly.
quarter of its income from exports - income which Paradoxically, however, these rescheduling
should be invested in recovery and meeting human exercises have fuelled rather than alleviated the
needs. Shortages of foreign exchange resulting from debt crisis, by contributing to the unsustainable
repayments to Western creditors has inhibited build-up of arrears. Over 40 per cent of the non-
agricultural and industrial output, compromising concessional debt owed by sub-Saharan Africa to
prospects for recovery and sustainable develop- the industrialised countries represents deferred
ment. As the World Bank has put it: 'The bite that interest payments capitalised by the Paris Club and
debt-service payments take out of countries' added to the total debt stock.
capacity to import each year is clearly unsustainable
in an environment of low investment and stagnant As the severity of the Africa's debt crisis
GDP.' deepened during the 1980s, more concessional
arrangements were introduced in an effort to stave
Even the current haemorrhage of financial off default. Between 1989 and 1991 official creditors
resources - now running at over $10bn a year - does cancelled some $10bn worth of sub-Saharan Africa
not tell the full story, since it represents only around debt, associated mainly with their overseas aid
half of what is due, or scheduled payments. Had debt programmes. However, since this debt was
repayments been met in full, they would have cost originally on very soft terms (and most of it was not
the region more than 50 per cent of its export being repaid in any case), its cancellation has made
earnings. But this regional average, striking as it is, little difference, either to debt repayments or to the
obscures the extent of the gap between Africa's stock of debt. In 1990, cancellations saved less than
financial obligations to creditors and its ability to $100m, out of total debt-service payments of $11 bn.
pay. In 1991, for example, Tanzania was able to The fact that Africa's total debt stock is now $30bn
meet less than a quarter and Zambia only around a higher than it was in 1989, when large-scale
third of scheduled debt-service payments. cancellations began, underlines the futility of these
Moreover, with most countries able to maintain gestures.
multilateral debt payments only at the expense of More concessional arrangements for non-
bilateral debt, arrears have increased at a concessional debt date from 1987. Under the 1988
frightening rate, from $220m a decade ago to $llbn Toronto Terms agreement, adopted after a meeting
today. The scale of these arrears is testament to of the Group of Seven industrialised countries,
Africa's financial bankruptcy, and to the urgent creditors acknowledged that a judicious mixture of
need for international measures to restore the region partial debt write-offs, longer repayment periods,
to solvency. and concessional interest rates were needed to
Nowhere is the legacy of accumulated debt reduce Africa's debt. Up to a third of the debt stock
problems more threatening than in Ethiopia, where scheduled for repayment during a stipulated period
they could hinder moves towards democracy and - known as the 'consolidation period' - became
post-war recovery. Up until 1989, the country eligible for cancellation. However, because that
serviced its debt almost in full. However, debt stock period was typically very short, the Toronto Terms
increased from $804 million in 1980 to $3,475 million brought few benefits in terms of foreign-exchange
in 1991. By 1990, the combined effects of civil war savings. The 28 rescheduling operations carried out
and increasingly insupportable foreign-exchange under the arrangement reduced the debt stock of
demands had forced the country into serious low-income creditors by only $lbn.
arrears, with only 40 per cent of repayments being
met. Even disregarding these arrears, it is now
14 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

The 'enhanced Toronto Terms' vague commitment to considering this option after a
three-to-four-year probationary period. This
Dissatisfaction with the Toronto Terms prompted approach has the effect of adding to financial
the then British Chancellor, John Major, to propose a uncertainties, with adverse consequences for capital
more far-reaching option. The Trinidad Terms, as flows and foreign investment.
his 1990 plan became known, called for the The inadequacy of the new package is
cancellation of two-thirds of the entire stock of compounded by the fact that only debt contracted
official debt contracted before a specified 'cut-off before a country's first recourse to the Paris Club is
date, and for the remaining third to be rescheduled eligible for relief. For most African countries this
over 25 years. The proposal was backed by a means the first half of the 1980s, even though
warning that, if other countries refused to accept it, servicing debt contracted after that period is a
Britain would break ranks and act unilaterally. serious problem for many. Moreover, rescheduling
In the event, other creditors succeeded in continues to apply to relatively short repayment
diluting the Trinidad Terms - and Britain did not periods. This might be appropriate to debtors facing
act on its unilateral pledge. The 'enhanced Toronto temporary liquidity problems. However, in the sub-
Terms', as the package agreed in December 1991 is Saharan African context it has the result of locking
known, lowered the debt-reduction option to 50 per what are basically bankrupt governments into an
cent. More importantly, it ruled out dealing with the endless round of negotiations over unpayable debt.
entire stock of debt at the outset, offering instead a

The shortcomings of the 'enhanced Toronto Terms'

With an annual per capita income of under $250, Despite this, Uganda has derived little benefit
Uganda is one of the poorest countries in the from its 1992 debt-rescheduling arrangement
world. It is also a victim of the havoc wrought by under the 'enhanced Toronto Terms' package, for
despotic rule, having suffered from a series of two reasons. First, over half of the national debt is
tyrannical governments, and a brutal civil war. owed to the World Bank and the IMF, which do
The legacy of economic collapse and social decline not reschedule their debt. Second, of the $288
was inherited by the National Resistance million owed to Western governments, as much as
Movement Government (NRM) when it assumed 50 per cent was contracted after the July 1981 'cut-
power in 1986. off date fixed by the Paris Club. Debt which
Foreign debt is the main obstacle to the NRM's accumulated after this date is not eligible for
economic recovery programme. Fully servicing the reduction or rescheduling.
country's $2.5bn debt would require 25 per cent The upshot of this is that between 1993 and
more foreign exchange than Uganda earns from all 2010, the Ugandan economy will be drained of
of its exports. The collapse of earnings from coffee, $2bn annually, of which $1.3bn will go to
the country's main export, has increased the urg- multilateral creditors (including $623m to the IDA
ency of debt relief by creating severe shortages of and $322m to the IMF). Repayments will rise
foreign exchange. Unless it maintains the capacity sharply after 1994, peaking in 1998 - the peak
to import a minimum level of imports, there is a being caused almost entirely by repayments to the
real danger of Uganda's 'adjustment' programme IMF. According to the most optimistic projections,
(which is enthusiastically supported by the World Uganda's total expected debt-service payments
Bank and Western governments) collapsing. will not start to fall until after the year 2012.

Judged as an attempt to resolve Africa's debt earnings needed to meet debt repayments) will fall
crisis, the enhanced Trinidad Terms are a failure. from 81 per cent to 44 per cent during the first years
For most countries they will do little more than of its enhanced Toronto Terms rescheduling, with
reduce the gap between scheduled repayments and subsequent savings bringing it down to 27 per cent
actual repayments, slowing the accumulation of by 1995 (this is on the optimistic assumption that
arrears, but bringing negligible foreign-exchange exports will grow by 5 per cent a year). However,
savings. For example, Tanzania's scheduled debt- the country's current actual debt-service ratio is
service ratio (the percentage of foreign-exchange below this figure, so that in real terms there will be
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 15

no foreign-exchange gains. Zambia is in a similar In Uganda's case, bilateral debt accounts for only
position. Research carried out for Oxfam by the around a quarter of total stock, with the World Bank
Overseas Development Institute suggests that accounting for a further 62 per cent and the IMF 12 '
Zambia's scheduled debt-service ratio will fall from per cent. It follows that there will be no major
over 40 per cent in 1990 to less than 20 per cent in reduction in Uganda's crushing debt burden, unless
three years (again assuming a 5 per cent growth in its payments to these institutions can be lowered.
exports). Since this is still in excess of the 13 per cent Despite the concessional nature of the greater
the country was paying in 1990, the main effect will part of World Bank credit in sub-Saharan Africa, in
be to do no more than narrow the gap between 1992 the Bank received over $2bn in repayments.
scheduled and actual debt service. These transfers contributed to a sharp drop in net
Even Mozambique, which has an overwhelming transfers, and there is now a strong case for using
case for debt relief to support its recovery from the Bank's own reserve funds - which total over
drought and civil war, will obtain only marginal $13bn - to reduce its demands on the region.
benefits from its recent Paris Club rescheduling. Debt owed to the IMF presents a more
Under the terms of that rescheduling, the country's intractable problem, for two reasons. Firstly, in
debt-service ratio will fall from 130 per cent to 38 contrast to the World Bank, the IMF has been
per cent. This is still wildly in excess of what it can draining Africa of financial resources since the early
realistically pay, since meeting the new target 1980s. Between 1983 and 1990, it received a net
would require $135m, or three times the repayment transfer of over $3bn, as repayments outstripped
level in 1991. Moreover, since 1991 Mozambique's new loans. (See Table 6.) In practice, this means that
economy has stagnated (with growth rates of less development resources provided by Western
than 1 per cent), and its balance of payments has governments are being diverted to the Fund.
deteriorated because of the effects on exports of Concessional lending from the World Bank's soft-
drought and the civil war. loan arm, the International Development Assoc-
One of the problems with the Paris Club iation (IDA), which ought to be financing recovery,
approach for Mozambique is its failure to address is being recycled in similar fashion, making the
problems associated with bilateral debt owed to short trip across 19th Street in Washington into the
other creditors. In Mozambique's case, around accounts of the IMF. Secondly, several countries -
three-quarters of long-term bilateral credit has been including Zambia, Sierra Leone, Zaire, and Liberia -
obtained from non-Paris Club sources, chiefly the have built up substantial arrears with the Fund.
former Soviet Union and Comecon countries. Much These arrears jeopardise the access of debtors to
of Ethiopia's long-term debt originates from the other, more concessional forms of finance needed to
same source. In both cases, real debt relief will support recovery.
require measures to reduce repayment obligations
to the new governments of the former Soviet Union The International Monetary Fund
and Eastern Europe. Paris Club creditors could
facilitate this by making part of their aid to these The IMF's increasingly damaging role in sub-
governments conditional on the provision of debt Saharan Africa is a direct consequence of policy
relief for Africa. mistakes in the early 1980s. At that time, the Fund
treated what was a problem of insolvency as one of
Multilateral debt short-term liquidity, extending short-term loans
(repayable over 18 months) at high interest rates to
Perhaps the most serious failing of current debt cover structural trade and budget deficits. As a
initiatives has been their failure to reduce result, the Fund embarked on financing what was
multilateral debt payments, which are occupying an bound to be a slow process of adjustment and
increasingly prominent place in sub-Saharan recovery with the wrong resources and the wrong
Africa's debt profile. In 1991, multilateral agencies - approach. Africa has been paying the price ever
mainly the World Bank and the IMF - accounted for since.
36 per cent of debt-service payments; and for a During the latter half of the 1980s, the IMF
number of countries these payments are a large and introduced two new facilities - the Structural
burdensome part of their repayment obligations. Adjustment Facility (SAF) and Enhanced Structural
They account for more than 10 per cent of export Adjustment Facility (ESAF) - to provide finance on
earnings for eight countries, including Ghana, more concessional terms. However, these have had
Kenya, and Madagascar, and for over a third of limited success. This was followed in 1990 by the
export earnings in the case of Uganda and Zambia. introduction of a mechanism - known as the 'rights
16 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

Table 6: Africa's IMF Debt and Debt Service (1980-1992)

1980 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992*

Use of IMF credit 3.0 6.7 7.0 7.5 7.0 6.3 6.6 6.6 6.8
IMF purchases 1.2 0.7 0.7 0.6 1.0 0.8 0.7 0.5 0.3
(capital inflows)

IMF repurchases 0.3 0.7 1.2 1.2 1.2 1.3 0.9 0.6 0.3
(capital outflows)

IMF charges 0.1 0.4 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1
(interest payments)

Net transfers 0.8 -0.4 -1.9 -0.4 -0.4 -0.7 -0.4 -0.3 -0.1
Source: World Bank: World Bank Debt Tables, 1992-93 (Washington: World Bank)
* estimate

accumulation approach' - to assist countries which Similarly, in Tanzania, IMF balance-of-payments

had built up arrears. However, neither initiative has targets have resulted in reductions of imports vital
succeeded in resolving the underlying problem of for agricultural and industrial recovery. Both cases
inadequate financing associated with IMF illustrate the triumph of macro-economic targeting
operations. Six years after the ESAF was created, over long-term development needs, which can be
only $2.3bn has been disbursed out of an original traced to the IMF's continued adherence to the
lending target of $8.7bn, and only 14 of the 40 anachronistic view that Africa's economic crisis is
African governments eligible for ESAF loans had reversible through repeated doses of deflation and
agreed terms by the end of 1992. Were it not for the belt-tightening.
fact that the maintenance of an IMF programme is a Efforts by the IMF to deal with the problem of
condition for Paris Club debt relief for many arrears through the 'rights approach' programme
countries, ESAF loans would have been even less have also been seriously flawed. Essentially, that
widely used. programme involves freezing arrears, with the
One. reason for the slow take-up rate for ESAF debtor country meeting interest charges remaining
loans is that repayment terms, concessional as they current on other obligations, and adhering to an
are by comparison with the IMF's higher-interest IMF-monitored financial programme. Each year, the
credits, are less favourable than for other facilities. country accumulates 'rights' to IMF concessional
The fact that ESAF programmes run for only three funds, which by the end of a stipulated period
years, and that repayments start after five years should be sufficient to clear arrears.
(rather than twelve years in the case of IDA loans) The disadvantage is that, apart from bearing the
makes them inappropriate to African conditions. burden of large-scale interest payments to the Fund,
Another, more serious, problem is that govern- countries in desperate need of support for their
ments have been unwilling to subject themselves to balance of payments are not eligible for new
the disciplines associated with ESAF lending. These lending until their arrears are cleared. In effect,
typically fix targets, monitored on a quarterly basis, therefore, the arrears-clearance programme rein-
for reducing budget deficits (principally by cutting forces the process through which the resources of
government spending), cutting trade deficits, and other donors are used to finance IMF debt servicing.
squeezing inflation by increasing interest rates and Take the case of Zambia, where mismanagement by
restricting money supply. The problem is not that the government of Kenneth Kaunda during the
these objectives are wrong in themselves; but that 1980s led to the accumulation of $1.2bn in IMF
the macro-economic targets fixed by the IMF are arrears - the largest in Africa. Last September, the
pursued at a pace which threatens long-term newly-elected government of Frederick Chiluba
recovery, as well- as social welfare. In Zambia, for was presented with a bill for $123m towards
example, the sharp rise in interest rates which clearing these arrears. Because it will receive no new
followed the adoption of an IMF stabilisation money from the IMF, resource transfers will remain
package in 1992 has seriously hampered investment negative for the duration of the programme, and
in local industry, and the provision of credit (vital even when arrears have been cleared, there is no
for post-drought recovery) to rural producers. guarantee of fresh concessional finance.
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 17

Towards real reform most importantly - consumption. Similarly, the

Fund should no longer be permitted to impose loan
It is difficult to avoid being struck by the contrast conditions which place its own debt-collection
between the urgency with which Western interests ahead of the development needs of
governments have responded to the financial debtors, and the human welfare needs of the
problems of Eastern Europe and Russia, and their world's poorest people.
neglect, for more than a decade, of Africa's far Oxfam believes that it is time for Northern
deeper problems. Over recent years, Oxfam has governments to face up to the fact that the IMF has
frequently been told by these governments that failed Africa. The Fund is not an instrument for
international shortages of capital and domestic providing long-term concessional development
recession prevent them from undertaking a major finance; and it is governed by apparently immutable
initiative to write off Africa's debts. Yet they have
orthodoxies entirely inappropriate to African
agreed in principle to an $18bn recovery package
conditions. The time has come therefore either
for the former Soviet Union, created a European
fundamentally to reform the IMF, or to extricate it
Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and
from Africa. In either case, measures to write off
implemented generous debt write-offs for Poland
obligations due to it from low-income African
and Egypt. What appears to be lacking in the
African context is one vital ingredient: namely, countries are long overdue. Northern governments
political will. typically object to this approach, either by warning
of its inflationary implications, or by claiming that it
Oxfam believes that after almost a decade of would erode the IMF's credibility. Neither
mismanaging the debt crisis, it is time for Northern argument holds water. It would be relatively simple
governments to adopt a new approach. That to write off Africa's IMF exposure through a sale of
approach must start from a recognition that Africa part of the Fund's largely redundant gold stocks.
is suffering not from a temporary problem of Alternatively, a new issue of capital - known as
liquidity, but from bankruptcy; and it must place Special Drawing Rights - could be financed by
debtors' ability to pay above the claims of creditors. Northern governments. Given the small scale of
African governments must not be put in a position finance involved and the depressed state of the
where 'creditworthiness' can be achieved only by global economy, it is difficult to see how either
deepening the poverty of their citizens, and by approach would generate serious inflationary
jeopardising prospects for recovery. pressure.
As we have seen, much of what currently passes
for rescheduling in the Paris Club is, in fact, a mere
pantomime, bearing little relation to the real needs Financing recovery
of debtor countries. Adoption of the original If African recovery is to become a realistic prospect,
Trinidad Terms would be a step in the right the region's meagre financial resources will have to
direction, and the British government, as the be supported by substantial in-flows of foreign
architect of that proposal, should take the lead in capital. Northern governments have prime
pressing for its adoption by the Group of Seven responsibility to provide that capital, because of the
industrialised countries. Having, with justice, taken region's heavy dependence on official development
considerable credit for proposing the Trinidad assistance. However, aid flows are stagnating in real
Terms, the British government must now accept a terms and development budgets are under pressure.
large share of the responsibility for allowing them Against this background, there is a real danger of
to disappear from the G7 agenda. Ultimately, Africa being starved of the financial resources
however, far more comprehensive debt reduction is needed to underpin recovery, and to generate more
needed to make recovery a realistic prospect. This is self-reliant development.
why Oxfam is calling on the industrialised countries
to agree to the cancellation of between 90 per cent
and 100 per cent of all non-concessional debt, rather Depending on aid
than the smaller amount contracted before an Estimates of Africa's capital requirements are
arbitrary 'cut-off date. necessarily imprecise. The World Bank's 1989
Turning to multilateral debt, serious questions assessment was that additional resources of $3.5bn a
must be asked about the role of the IMF. The Fund year in real terms were needed to the year 2000 to
cannot be allowed to continue to withdraw achieve a growth rate of between 4 per cent and 5
resources from Africa at the rate it has maintained per cent. With lower growth now forecast, this has
since the early 1980s. These resources are needed to to be regarded as a serious under-estimate. Even so,
sustain imports, and to support investment and - it is a highly ambitious target when viewed against
18 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

past performance. During the 1980s resource flows Saharan Africa receives only 3 per cent of
to sub-Saharan Africa stagnated, taking into account worldwide foreign private investment - or rather
inflation and exchange-rate shifts, and in 1992 they less than Portugal. Moreover, there is little prospect
were 8 per cent lower than in 1989. of this position changing in the medium term. While
Changing this picture will depend critically on some Latin American countries have experienced a
mobilising official aid. In-flows of private invest- sharp recovery in in-flows of private capital, Africa
ment and commercial loans, which accounted for has been by-passed. Only $1.1 bn in new direct
around a third of capital inflows in the 1970s, investment took place in 1990, and this was offset by
collapsed in the 1980s. They now represent less than net transfers of $lbn to commercial banks.
5 per cent of resource flows to the region. Sub-

Table 7: Aid Reliance Ratios and Per Capita Income

ODA as % of GNP 1990-91 Per capita income 1991 $


Low Income Countries 11.0 300

of which: Mozambique 98.2 70

Tanzania LLDC 40.0 100
Somalia LLDC 33.8 150
Sahel Group
LLDC 20.3 380
Lesotho LLDC 17.4 580
Madagascar 17.0 210
Ethiopia LLDC 15.9 120
Zambia 14.0 420
Rwanda LLDC 13.6 260
Uganda LLDC 13.5 160
Kenya 13.4 340
Ghana 12.8 400
Congo 8.8 1120
Zaire 7.2 160
Ivory Coast 6.9 690
Sudan LLDC 6.7 470
Zimbabwe 6.3 610
Cameroon 4.4 940
Nigeria 1.0 290
Lower Middle Income Countries 4.7 1700
Upper Middle Income Countries 4.7 3780
ASIA 1.0 560
Source: OECD: 1992 Development Cooperation Report (Paris: OECD)
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 19

As a result of these trends, sub-Saharan Africa due to repayments on past loans, and in 1991 there
has become increasingly dependent on official was a further steep fall from $1.3 billion to $520
development assistance (ODA) from governments million. Meanwhile, negative transfers to the IMF
and multilateral agencies. Aid now accounts for 80 have continued, albeit at a slower rate than in the
per cent of all financial resource flows into the past. The overall result has been a fall in net
region, and for 11 per cent of the region's entire financial transfers to Africa at a time when increased
GDP. (See table 7.) This is far higher than in Latin resources are vital to recovery. (See Table 8.)
America (0.5 per cent) and Asia (1 per cent), and in
the extreme case of Mozambique rises to 98 per
cent. For the 32 least developed countries in Africa, Development budgets under threat
aid accounts for over a fifth of national income. The danger is that this pattern could continue for
With one notable exception, the international the rest of the 1990s, scuttling Africa's economic
donor community has responded to sub-Saharan prospects in the process. Recession in several of the
Africa's deepening crisis. The region, which major industrial countries has increased the
comprises one-tenth of the population of the vulnerability of overseas aid budgets. Even Sweden,
developing world, now receives over 30 per cent of traditionally one of the industrial world's most
all development assistance distributed by the OECD generous aid donors,' announced a 10 per cent
countries, compared with 24 per cent in 1980. reduction in aid during 1992. In Britain, Treasury
Britain increased the proportion of its aid budget ministers entered the 1992 public spending round
earmarked for Africa from 37 per cent to 48 per cent seeking a 15 per cent cut in overseas development
over the same period. The notable exception to the assistance. In the event, this option was rejected and
overall trend is the United States, which reduced by a modest increase in aid spending agreed. However,
a quarter Africa's share of its aid budget during the a spending freeze on development assistance for the
1980s. Multilateral aid is even more heavily next three years was also announced - a move
concentrated on Africa than bilateral assistance. The which rests uneasily with a pledge made by the
International Development Association (IDA), the Prime Minister, John Major, at the Rio Earth
World Bank's soft-loan arm, increased spending in Summit in 1992 to provide 'substantial extra (aid)
the region from $663m in 1980 to $1.8bn in 1991 (in resources over the next two years'.
constant terms). Between 45 per cent and 50 per cent Mounting budgetary pressures have also been
of IDA resources are now earmarked for sub- evident in multilateral lending. In January 1993,
Saharan Africa, although access is subject to the donors ended over a year of negotiations on the
adoption of structural adjustment programmes. The tenth replenishment of resources for the IDA (the
European Community, the second largest main source of concessional finance for Africa),
multilateral donor, spends around half of its total agreeing to provide $11.83bn, spread over three
aid resources in Africa. years. This represents a small increase over the
During the first half of the 1980s, development previous IDA. However, in per capita terms it is
assistance increased at around the 4 per cent target considerably less generous than its predecessor,
level identified by the World Bank. However, the because funds will have to be spread over more
rate of increase slowed during the second half of the recipients, including countries of the former Soviet
decade - from 6 per cent to 1.5 per cent annually. Union. Britain's contribution of $620m represented
Overall, official development assistance to the a decline from 6.7 per cent to 6.1 per cent of total
region has stagnated at around $19bn (in 1990 IDA resources. Pressure on multilateral budgets has
prices) since 1989. More disconcertingly, conces- also been evident in funding for the UN's special
sional aid flows from bilateral sources fell from assistance programme for Africa, administered by
$12bn in 1990 to $10.7bn in 1991. Transfers from the the International Fund for Agricultural Develop-
World Bank fell during the second half of the 1980s ment (IFAD). So far, only $100m out of $300m has

Table 8: Net Financial Rows to sub-Saharan Africa

($ bn at 1990 prices and exchange rates)

1980 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991

15 12 17 18 15 16 17 15

Source: OECD: 1992 Development Co-operation Report (Paris: OECD)

20 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

been pledged for its second phase. This is a source down which could lead to reduced spending on
of special concern to Oxfam. IFAD has established a development. In addition to national economic
deserved reputation for efficiently disbursing funds problems, the mounting costs of supporting the fast-
to small farmers, and its projects are targeted at expanding role of the UN in humanitarian
tackling some of Africa's most pressing environ- assistance, peace-keeping, and conflict-resolution
mental problems, including drought and (especially if it assumes a higher profile in war-torn
desertification. former Yugoslavia) is likely to place further
Looking to the future, there is a widening array constraints on aid spending.
of forces likely to limit the availability of official
development finance. New and competing demands Aiding recovery
on aid budgets are being made by Eastern Europe
and the former Soviet Union. According to the In the face of financial exigency at home and
World Bank, the countries of Eastern Europe will strategic demands abroad, it will be tempting for the
require $9-1 Obn a year in extra finance until the end governments of the industrial countries to overlook
of the 1990s, simply to return to their 1989 levels of the moral and practical case for increasing aid to
per capita income. Recent estimates for Russia Africa. But Oxfam believes that the sheer scale of
suggest that as much as $14bn in foreign aid is Africa's crisis, the needs of its people and their
needed for 1993 alone to maintain imports and hopes for the future present a compelling
avoid economic breakdown. The deepening crisis humanitarian case for increased aid - and one
facing the Russian President has given an increased which would enjoy widespread public support.
urgency to moves on the part of the Group of Seven That is why we are calling on the governments of
industrialised countries - and especially the US - to the industrial countries to meet a 4 per cent growth
mobilise resources. target for African aid. Within this target, special
It is too early to predict whether the pressing emphasis should be placed on investment in health,
needs of the East will take precedence over those of education, water and sanitation, and post-conflict
the South. So far, there has been only a limited reconstruction. UNICEF has estimated that Africa
diversion of funds away from developing countries. (including North Africa) needs an additional $6bn
However, as the 1992 OECD Development Co- annually for the rest of the decade to meet minimal
operation report notes, there is 'a real risk' to aid targets in each of these areas, which collectively
budgets. Africa is particularly threatened, both account for only around 6 per cent official devel-
opment assistance.
because of its limited commercial and strategic
significance to most donors, and because assistance Admittedly, the sums needed are substantial. But
to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union will they are commensurate with Africa's needs, and
increase claims on scarce concessional resources. within the means of Northern governments. The
In Europe, the EC aid budget - a major source of case for an increased aid effort is made all the more
concessional funds for sub-Saharan Africa - is under compelling by the abysmally low levels of aid
pressure from a range of sources. These include provided by a number of major donors. During the
continued over-spending on the Common Agricul- Marshall Plan, the United States transferred
tural Policy (which will continue to consume approximately 2 per cent of its GNP to Europe.
around two-thirds of the entire EC budget, despite Today, its aid budget represents 0.2 per cent of
the 1992 reform measures), the implementation of GNP. In total, only four countries have reached the
the Single European Market arrangements - UN target figure of 0.7 per cent of GNP. (See Figure
including more active regional and social policies; 1.) Britain has performed particularly badly, having
and growing demands from the Commission for reduced its aid expenditure from an average of 0.42
concerted measures to combat recession and mass per cent of GNP in 1978/82 to 0.36 per cent in 1991.
unemployment. There are even more pronounced Modest progress towards the 0.7 per cent UN target
threats to aid spending in the USA, where the would release significant new resources which
Clinton administration is committed to reducing the could be directed towards African recovery. So, too,
country's budget deficit significantly, while would reduced military spending. According to the
increasing government spending on domestic reco- World Bank, development aid levels could be
very. The administration's economic programme doubled by a 10 per cent reduction in military
does envisage tax increases to meet these objectives, expenditure in the industrial countries. This may
but budget spending on aid will inevitably come not be a realistic target. But it is indicative of the
under pressure. Even Japan, which has become scale of resources which could be provided, if there
increasingly important as a source of aid for sub- were sufficient political will. It is indicative too of
the deep moral flaws in a world order where the
Saharan Africa, is in the midst of an economic slow
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 21

world's richest countries continue to allocate some would send a signal to other donors and improve
seven times more of their GNP to military Britain's standing on international bodies such as
expenditure than to overseas aid. the UN, where its poor aid record has eroded its
Britain should take the lead in pressing for an credibility. Similarly,. Britain should be taking a
international initiative to back UNICEF's medium- leading role in persuading the EC to establish a new
term plan for human investment in Africa; and it 80m budget line for African recovery. It is surely
should start by setting a good example. This is why an anachronism that the Community, with its strong
Oxfam is calling on it to 'unfreeze' the aid budget focus on Africa, does not already have such a
and provide an additional 100m to support African facility. Moreover, as Oxfam has argued in the past,
recovery. This would restore only about a third of there are unspent funds in the existing Lome
the real cuts in aid spending made since 1979. But it Convention which could be used for this purpose.

Figure 1: Net Development Assistance from OECD Countries in 1991 as % of GNP

Norway 1.14
Denmark 0.96

Sweden 0.92

Netherlands 0.88

Finland 0.76

France 0.62

Canada 0.45

Belgium 0.42

Germany 0.41

Australia 0.38

Switzerland 0.36

Austria 0.34

Japan 0.32

United Kingdom 0.32

Portugal 0.31

Italy 0.30

New Zealand 0.25

Spain 0.23
United States

Ireland o.i9

Total DAC 0.33


Source: OECD: 1992 Development Cooperation Report (Paris = OECD)

22 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

Improving quality Structural adjustment:

In addition to increasing the quantity of aid, donors
a failed prescription
must also attach more weight to improving aid The World Bank's Director, Lewis Preston, has
quality. Far too little official development assistance identified poverty alleviation as 'the yardstick
goes towards health and education, and too much against which [its] performance should be judged'.
towards supporting exports from donor countries. Oxfam welcomes this commitment, not least
There are also serious question marks over whether because the World Bank - along with the IMF - is
official commitments to reducing poverty are the main interlocutor in development dialogue
reflected in aid practice. For example, Britain's aid between Africa and Northern governments. But
programme attaches priority to alleviating poverty encouraging rhetoric should not be allowed to
at the grassroots, yet there is no systematic obscure the fundamental failure of World Bank-IMF
evaluation of the impact of its projects on poverty; structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) either to
and there is still a bias towards economically more create a platform for sustained economic recovery,
productive areas and producers, and away from the or to enable the poor to benefit from market
poor. More generally, too much technical assistance reforms. After a decade of adjustment dominated by
(which accounts for a quarter of all aid to sub- SAPs, it is now clear that Africa requires an
Saharan Africa) is spent on the fees of the 100,000 or alternative model of economic development,
so donor consultants in the region, and not enough capable of meeting these twin objectives.
on employing Africans. Salaries for these expatriate The pervasive influence of the World Bank and
consultants exceed the total civil-service wage bill IMF can be traced to the financial crisis of the 1980s,
for some African countries, and the World Bank has when more and more countries in sub-Saharan
estimated that savings of up to 50 per cent could be Africa were forced to turn to them for financial
achieved through greater use of indigenous assistance. That assistance was provided through
consultants. SAPs. Between 1980 and 1989, 36 sub-Saharan
Improved consultation with local communities is African countries initiated 241 adjustment
vital to improving aid quality. Through its project programmes. Most have had multiple programmes,
partners in Africa, Oxfam has become increasingly with 11 implementing ten or more.
aware of how large-scale aid projects, drawn up Broadly, SAPs comprise two interlocking sets of
without the participation of these communities, can policies. Short-term stabilisation loans from the IMF
compound poverty. The EC's Natural Forest are designed to support macro-economic reform,
Management and Conservation Project in Uganda is intended to squeeze inflation out of the economy,
a case in point. This project aimed to improve and to reduce budget and trade deficits. Conditions
management of the country's forest resources. In the attached to these loans typically include strict
case of the Kibale Forest Project, an internal report deflationary targets, including restrictions on money
by the Chief Technical Adviser for the project supply, increased interest rates, and reduced
recognised that this would have serious government spending. World Bank adjustment
implications for communities living in those areas, programmes are intended to provide for longer-
and candidly admitted its success would require term improvements in efficiency, by removing
'the eviction of squatters'. Incredibly - though not economic distortions. To become eligible for SAP
unusually - no provisions were made to compen- loans, governments are normally required to agree
sate or resettle these squatters, despite their acute to a broad reform package, including import
poverty. As a result, more than 30,000 people were liberalisation, currency devaluation, and other
removed from the forest and left without shelter, measures to promote production for export markets,
food or other resources to sustain themselves. Over privatisation, and measures to encourage foreign
the past year, Oxfam has been working with the investment. In practice, the line between IMF
Ugandan Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare in stabilisation and World Bank adjustment
an emergency project to help to resettle evicted programmes is blurred, because the principle of
families, and in providing emergency relief. Yet the 'cross-conditionality', under which agreement with
EC appears to have learnt little from its mistakes, one institution is a criterion for loans from the other,
claiming in the detached technocratic language of its means that the two are typically implemented in
most recent evaluation that 'the project's success tandem.
story has been its clearing of squatters and
encroachers from the forest reserves'.
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 23

The case for reform resources into debt-service payments. Here too the
World Bank can plead 'not guilty' and point the
Northern governments and the World Bank finger of blame at Western governments. But the
frequently defend SAPs by arguing that there is no fact remains that the Bank and the IMF accepted for
alternative to adjustment. At one level, this is too long the legitimacy of creditors' claims, delaying
undoubtedly true. Without corrective action, serious consideration of debt relief. Moreover, both
excessive trade and budget deficits translate into institutions have failed to impress on donors that
socially damaging and economically disruptive successful adjustment is incompatible with current
hyper-inflation, currency instability, and the debt-servicing levels.
emergence of parallel markets. It is equally true that Important as external debt and trade constraints
a counterfactual case can be made in defence of have been, a large measure of responsibility for the
adjustment: things could always have been worse dismal performance of SAPs must be attributed to
without it. But the real yardstick against which poor design. Taken individually, many of the
SAPs must be judged is their success - or failure - in elements of adjustment programmes are necessary
restoring economic growth and alleviating poverty conditions for promoting recovery. In many
in sub-Saharan Africa. The overwhelming weight of countries, blanket protection, designed to defend
evidence suggests that they have not performed heavily subsidised, inefficient industries from
well in either area. competition, has stifled local initiative and
In its most recent review of SAPs in sub-Saharan investment. Over-valued currencies, which have the
Africa, the World Bank itself concedes that effect of encouraging imports and discouraging
adjustment has 'left much to be desired in terms of exports, have had similarly debilitating effects. In
restoring growth and social welfare', and admits the agricultural sector, they have effectively taxed
that investment levels have dropped significantly in smallholder producers of export crops and
countries implementing its programmes. Since increased the competitiveness of food imports,
investment is one of the keys to sustainable undermining the prices of domestic food staples in
recovery, this is a particularly sobering assessment the process. In the industrial sector, currency over-
of more than a decade of structural adjustment. valuation has discouraged the emergence of labour-
Efforts to meet IMF stabilisation targets have intensive manufacturing industries. It has also
similarly met with limited success, with only six encouraged dependence on imported capital goods
countries managing to achieve simultaneously and undermined markets for local manufacturing
lower inflation rates, reduced trade deficits, and by artificially depressing prices for imported
lower budget deficits during the 1980s. Moreover, consumer goods. For all of these reasons, there is an
stabilisation policies have focused on reducing overwhelming case for movement towards selective
expenditure, which - as both the World Bank and trade liberalisation and realistic currency align-
IMF now acknowledge - has had a severe impact on ments. However, the timing and magnitude of that
the provision of health and education services. Even movement is critical; and it is in this area that World
where adjustment programmes have been Bank and IMF policies have been at their most
associated with higher levels of economic growth, flawed and inconsistent.
as in Ghana and Uganda, there is no evidence that
Take the case of labour-intensive manufacturing
they have substantially reduced poverty levels, or
industries, which the World Bank rightly identifies
reduced trade deficits and inflation to sustainable
as one of the keys to enduring poverty alleviation.
levels. Moreover, their 'success' has been based on
These industries could benefit from import liberal-
substantial aid transfers, rather than on investment-
isation, since they need access to imported machin-
led recovery.
ery to improve productivity. The problem is that
External factors have contributed to the poor import liberalisation is taking place in a context
record of SAPs. Shortages of foreign exchange where the competitiveness of local industries is
resulting from the prolonged depression in world being eroded by IMF stabilisation policies. In
commodity prices have left industries and Tanzania, for example, a sharp rise in interest rates
agriculture starved of the imports needed for in 1986 left the textile industry without the
recovery, undermining several programmes. resources needed to meet foreign orders. More
Clearly, the extent and duration of that depression recently, Oxfam has seen small-scale industries in
could not have been predicted by the World Bank. Zambia hit by a surge in interest rates to over 70 per
However, as we have already noted, SAPs have cent. Devaluation has compounded the effects of
helped to prolong it by expanding exports on to interest-rate rises by increasing the costs of
already over-supplied markets. Another factor imported machinery.
discouraging investment has been the diversion of The upshot is that Africa's industries have been
24 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

faced with a marked increase in production costs, at translate into increased demand for female labour.
a time when import liberalisation has increased In Zambia, for example, increased maize production
competition from foreign goods. In countries such during the 1980s was achieved partly by women
as the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria, this switching their labour from producing food for
'sudden shock' liberalisation has resulted in the loss family needs, or for sale on local markets.
of thousands of jobs, and jeopardised the future of Where prices for food staples have increased, the
potentially competitive labour-intensive industries poorest farmers in the most remote areas have often
like textiles, shoes and assembly operations. By been unable to benefit, because of their inadequate
encouraging largely uncoordinated market access to productive resources and market
liberalisation at a time when fragile local industries infrastructure. This has been the experience of
are already under severe adjustment pressure, SAPs Oxfam's project partners in the Eastern Province of
have become a prescription for disinvestment and Zambia, who have been unable to respond to the
deindustrialisation, rather than recovery. IMF sharp increase in maize prices because they have no
targets for reducing budget deficits have added to transport facilities. Similarly, smallholders in
the problems of local industry. For example, Malawi have benefited little from improved prices,
cutbacks in public spending on infrastructure inhibit because of in-built biases in marketing policies
export-oriented manufacturing and agriculture; and towards estate agriculture.
inadequate investment in education undermines In some cases, the liberalisation of agricultural
long-term prospects for improving economic marketing agencies has also had an adverse effect
efficiency. on poor farmers. In Zambia, for example, the ending
of the state monopoly in purchasing crops such as
SAPs and the rural poor groundnuts and cotton has been accompanied by
the emergence of powerful private trading
World Bank claims that SAPs support poverty monopolies, with no perceptible benefit for the
alleviation in the rural sector rest on the belief that poor. Moreover, private-sector traders often have
devaluation (which raises the local-currency prices little interest in operating in more remote areas. This
of export crops) and the dismantling of state means that the withdrawal of State buying and
marketing agencies (which have traditionally over- storage facilities may leave the poorest farmers
taxed peasant producers) improve incomes in the facing even greater difficulties in marketing their
rural sector, where the poor are concentrated. In crops - a process that Oxfam has witnessed in
some cases, the poor have benefited from Malawi and Tanzania.
adjustment measures. But the overall picture is by These cases illustrate the limitations of relying on
no means as clear as is often suggested. In some the price mechanism to address problems of poverty
countries - such as Ghana - the removal of subsidies alleviation in a region where most farmers remain
on inputs and the rising cost of imported fertilisers barely above subsistence level, and do not normally
resulting from devaluation have outweighed the sell their small surpluses on regulated markets. For
benefits of higher prices, leaving producers worse these farmers the main difficulty in increasing
off. There have also been marked divergences in the production, and thus income, is the low
distribution of benefits. In Zimbabwe, for example, productivity of their land and labour, and their lack
devaluation has dramatically increased prices for of access to markets.
export crops produced by commercial farmers.
However, poverty is concentrated among maize
farmers in communal areas, producing either for Poverty reduction
subsistence or for sale on the domestic market. The World Bank's main response to the failure of
Policy makers have conspicuously failed to SAPs significantly to reduce poverty levels has been
consider gender differences in the design of to support a range of welfare measures - known as
adjustment measures. Improved incentives for 'social dimensions of adjustment programmes' -
commercial crops provide few benefits to women aimed at protecting the poor. Such programmes
who produce food staples for local markets. For clearly have a place, especially in maintaining the
example, in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, price provision of health and educational services. An
incentives have been shifted in favour of crops such increasing number of adjustment programmes now
as cocoa and cotton. The subsistence crops which require the introduction of social welfare safety nets
predominate in the poorest parts of the country, and as a condition for loans. The problem is that
in which women are most heavily involved, have interventions in this area have been inadequately
hardly been affected. Moreover, improved price funded and poorly implemented. For example, in
incentives for crops controlled by men often Zambia, Oxfam saw how the social dimensions
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 25

programme was drawn up long after the effects of least because an increase in smallholder
adjustment were being felt, with limited co- productivity will reduce dependency on food
ordination between donors. In Ghana, a similar imports, thereby saving foreign exahange.
scheme was introduced, mainly by amalgamating The poverty-focused approach to adjustment
existing donor-funded social-welfare operations, should include three further departures from
most of which were characterised by bureaucratic current practice. Firstly, import-liberalisation
delays and inadequate mechanisms for identifying measures should be more carefully phased.
and reaching the poor. Both programmes have Protectionism of the unselective, haphazard, and
probably served more of a political purpose in permanent type practised in the past was clearly a
giving adjustment the appearance of a human face, recipe for inefficiency; but carefully targeted and
rather than a genuine compensatory purpose. temporary protection is more consistent with the
More generally, serious questions must be asked goal of establishing an efficient manufacturing
about the implications of SAPs for African sector than sudden import liberalisation. As the
democracy. For example, is genuine democracy experience of the South Asian 'newly industrialising
compatible with the de facto transfer of economic countries' has shown, protection against import
policy sovereignity to Washington-based instit- competition is compatible with export promotion.
utions, which are manifestly not accountable to the Indeed, the NIC example of maintaining protection
communities which their policies affect? Similarly, against imports while investing heavily in
is a democratic contract between state and civil education, infrastructure, and institutional develop-
society possible where externally-imposed ment has clear lessons for Africa.
stabilisation programmes undermine the ability of Secondly, the emphasis of adjustment should
governments to meet minimum welfare needs, switch away from expanding production of primary
forcing them instead to rely on donor-funded and commodities for world markets, and towards, the
designed safety nets? In Oxfam's view, real promotion of regional trade. Investment in physical
democracy requires governments to meet minimum and monetary infrastructure needed for the
welfare needs, and to be held accountable for this development of that trade must be created, and
responsibility. For their part, non-governmental supported by moves towards reducing' trade
organisations need to exercise extreme caution in barriers within Africa itself.
plugging the welfare gaps left by stabilisation Finally, adjustment must incorporate a major
programmes, since their interventions can unwit- effort to develop public services for the
tingly erode both the responsibiity and capacity of development of human capabilities. The World
states to provide welfare services. Bank is now. paying more attention to this issue,
increasing spending on health and education more
Towards a new approach rapidly than any other area. However, IMF-
sponsored stabilisation measures continue to exert
Sustained poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa downward pressure on all types of public spending,
requires a new approach to adjustment. The starting including that for social services. The resulting
point of that approach should not be the adoption of squeeze on health care, education, water supplies,
social welfare measures 'bolted on' to SAPs to training, and other areas must be reversed if Africa
provide safety nets, but a substantial redistribution is to build the human-capital base that it needs for
in favour of smallholder farmers and the poor. In recovery.
Africa, as in other developing regions, sustained
poverty alleviation can be achieved only through Challenging hunger
measures which enhance the productive capacity of
the poor. 'Market-based' solutions are not a panacea Of all the challenges facing African communities,
for poverty, especially when the poor are excluded their governments, and the international commu-
from markets because they lack access to productive nity, that of ending endemic hunger is the most
resources. pressing. Many countries in Africa face exceptional
This is why Oxfam believes that SAPs must food shortages, and millions of people still face the
make a greater investment in providing credit, threat of famine. Even without famine, malnutrition
marketing infrastructure, and other infrastructural is widespread. According to the World Bank, just
support services targeted at marginal producers and under half of the region's population suffers from
at more remote areas. Support for these producers, some level of food deprivation, with serious
who account for the vast majority of Africa's poor, consequences for health and productivity. Ending
is vital for poverty alleviation. But there are also this crisis of food security depends critically on
wider reasons for a redistributive strategy - not peace, increased self-reliance in food, and
26 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

redistributive policies aimed at empowering the responsibilities, in refugee or conflict situations, for
rural poor. the care and maintenance of children and elderly
Conflict Ending conflict is a pre-condition for food
security in countries such as Sudan, Angola, Liberia,
During 1992, Somalia became a symbol of Africa's and Rwanda. This, as we argue below, is an area
tragedy as famine caused by fighting between clans where the international community can play a far
claimed up to 300,000 lives. Thanks to a massive - if more effective role. But post-conflict reconstruction
belated - humanitarian operation, many more lives also poses an immense challenge, as impoverished
were saved. However, one million Somalis remain refugees and displaced people return home to
at risk from malnutrition, their survival depending rebuild their lives with few - if any - resources.
on the availability and timely delivery of food aid. Oxfam is responding to this challenge. Almost
Somalia is a potent example of the devastating three-quarters of our grants to Africa are now spent
impact of armed conflict on food security in Africa. on conflict-related work, and the proportion is
From Liberia to Angola and the Horn of Africa, the increasing. In the Wadla Delanta area of Wallo
refugees created by these conflicts have been among Province of Ethiopia, we have helped populations to
the most vulnerable to hunger. It is estimated by the resettle by providing the resources for rural seed
UN that more than 6 million Africans have fled banks, and credit for farm implements. Similarly, in
from their own countries to escape civil conflict. the Zambezia region of Mozambique, one of the
Another 12 million have been 'internally displaced', areas worst affected by civil war, we are providing
having fled from their villages in search of greater returning refugees with hand-tools and seeds. These
security in other parts of the country. In interventions are aimed at supporting local
Mozambique alone, fifteen years of warfare have communities in their efforts to create a more secure
left 5 million people displaced and a further 1.5 and self-reliant future.
million as refugees in neighbouring countries. The courage and tenacity of these communities
All too often, starvation has been used as a has been striking, even in the face of the most
weapon in Africa's conflicts. The Ethiopian famine daunting odds. During the savage civil war in
of the mid-1980s was caused in large measure by the Somalia, the farmers of Malable village were
disruption of food systems when the Ethiopian routinely pillaged by militia, as the forces of first
military launched an offensive against Tigray. More one warlord and then another swept across their
recently, both the Sudanese government and the land. Everything was looted: money, food, seeds,
Sudanese People's Liberation Army have tools, and even clothes. The houses were burnt or
systematically disrupted food systems in the fell down. In Malable half of the inhabitants
southern part of the country by destroying crops, disappeared; they either died or fled. The survivors
disrupting markets, and forcing farmers to leave were reduced to eating grass. The irrigation
their lands. The result has been a displaced channels which take water from the Shabelle river
population of over 1.7 million, and a famine in the silted up, and the incidence of malaria increased
south which threatens thousands of lives. dramatically.
Women and children are among the main In mid-1992 Oxfam began work with the
victims of civil strife and armed conflict. The inhabitants of Malable and other villages in the
proliferation of orphanages in countries such as Lower Shabelle and Lower Juba river valleys.
Ethiopia are testament to the plight of hundreds of Security was still precarious, but the villagers' plight
thousands of children across Africa left without made it imperative to try to help them. Oxfam
parents. Additionally, many children have been arranged for food to be supplied, then distributed
mutilated, disabled by mines, and psychologically local varieties of seeds. We arranged for village
traumatised, and are now in need of care and blacksmiths to make enough hand-tools for 30,000
rehabilitation. Women and girls in countries farmers. A mechanical digger was hired to clean out
affected by conflict have been subjected to sexual the three main irrigation canals, and then the
abuse, and their already disadvantaged position in farmers set to work with their hand-tools to clear
nutritional status, health and education has further over 100 km of secondary channels. Security
deteriorated. In Ethiopia, the diversion of male improved when the US and other forces intervened
labour into the army during the country's civil war in Somalia under the auspices of the UN. By
left women to shoulder an added burden in food February 1993 the farmers were reaping a good
production and marketing. And the collapse of harvest of maize and sorghum, and more seeds
family networks, which provided a buffer in times were available to be distributed by farmers in time
of need, has left them to assume even greater for the next planting season. Teams of local health
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 27

workers were beginning to tackle the scourges of malnutrition, with an estimated 1.7 million people
malaria and diarrhoea. left dependent on relief assistance. In Somalia,
Hussen Moalim Iman, Oxfam's agricultural team drought in 1991 and 1992 forced the nomadic
leader, reported: 'Six months ago you would not see pastoralists of the central region to sell off their
children here. They ran away. If they came, they herds at a time of escalating food prices caused by
were sullen and withdrawn. The most tangible war, exposing them to severe hunger.
evidence of our success is that they are now smiling Drought and conflict have left many countries in
again. Their eyes are shining. They laugh and wave sub-Saharan Africa critically dependent on food and
and play football once more.' emergency aid. The provision of that aid is vital to
But even if security continues to improve - a big the region's food security, and for local efforts at
'if - the people of Malable continue to suffer the post-drought and post-conflict reconstruction.
damaging effects of war. Before the war, the flow of Unfortunately, for several countries, gaps between
the Shabelle could be controlled by an off-stream local needs and donors' pledges remain. This is why
reservoir at Johar. During the war the sluice gates Oxfam will be pressing Northern governments to
were destroyed and the channels silted up. In respond more favourably to UN appeals.
February 1993, after heavy rain upstream, the
Shabelle burst its banks and flooded the village. Towards self-reliance
Worse, the waters swept away the ferry which the
villagers used daily to get to and from their fields. Chronic localised food shortages caused by war and
Oxfam arranged for sacks to be sent, and the drought are the most visible aspects of Africa's
villagers struggled to fill them with sand to plugthe agricultural crisis. But the greatest long-term source
breaches in the embankments. For the villagers it of food insecurity has been poor agricultural
was a serious blow to their confidence and hopes of performance. In contrast to other developing
recovery. regions, food production in Africa has not kept pace
with population growth. As a result, food self-
sufficiency has fallen, and dependence on
Drought commercial food imports and food aid has
Like conflict, drought has a debilitating effect on the increased. These now account for about 17 per cent
poorest communities. During 1992, Oxfam of overall food availability, and considerably more
witnessed at first hand the devastating impact of in parts of West Africa. Future prospects are not
southern Africa's worst drought in living memory. encouraging. World Bank projections suggest that
In eastern Zambia, some of the villages in which we sub-Saharan Africa's food imports will double by
work saw their entire crop destroyed, leaving them 2010 - and several other estimates suggest that they
without seeds for planting, and forcing farmers to may double before the end of the decade.
leave their land in a desperate bid to earn income These trends are worrying, because agriculture is
elsewhere. Draught animals needed for ploughing the backbone of most sub-Saharan African
fields were also wiped out in many areas. Along economies, accounting on average for a third of
with other aid agencies, Oxfam responded by GDP and three-quarters of employment. It follows
providing seeds and supporting incomes through that agricultural performance has a critical bearing
'food for work' programmes. Under these pro- on both national and household incomes. In
grammes, food aid is provided as payment to addition, food imports now constitute a major strain
villagers working on projects - such as building on Africa's balance of payments, accounting for
feeder roads and digging wells - identified by the about 10 per cent of total imports.
local community. However, despite good rains this Such dependence on food imports is particularly
year, the depletion of resources caused by the dangerous for Africa, not only because its debt and
drought means that agricultural production is trade problems impose serious limits on its ability
unlikely to recover to pre-drought levels. to purchase food in world markets; but also because
Nomadic herders, grazing animals on arid and there is no guarantee that food aid and/or
semi-arid lands, are particularly vulnerable to commercial imports will be available when needed,
drought, since it depletes their most precious assets: and in the required quantities. Drought in the
their livestock herds. In northern and eastern United States, increased imports in the former
Kenya, Oxfam saw the drought of 1992 decimate the Soviet Union, and agricultural reforms (unlikely as
livestock herds of pastoral communities, forcing they may be) which reduce over-production and the
herders to sell cheaply to local traders. At the same availability of cheap exports from Europe and
time, shortages of cereals have forced up prices of North America would all pose a serious threat to
food staples. The result has been widespread Africa's food security. This is why the Economic
28 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

Africa's food-aid needs

The international communities' response to the 160,000 pastoralists will need help to restock their
crisis of famine and drought in Africa in 1992 flocks and herds.
helped to avert a major catastrophe in most In Sudan, 2.78 million people affected by war
countries, apart from Somalia. The UN emergency and displacement will need 324,000 tonnes of food
appeals received strong support, with US$903m aid in 1993. In south Sudan, many people cut off
out of US$1.lbn pledged for the Horn, and by the war are in a desperate state.
US$651m out of US$951m pledged for southern In Kenya, drought has affected the livelihoods
Africa. However, while pledges for food aid were of pastoralists communities. Assistance will be
adequate, support for non-food aid items such as needed for 1.7 million drought-affected.people and
seeds and tools was not. The limited provision of 400,000 refugees.
agricultural inputs last year, combined with the In Mozambique, the signing of the peace
large populations of refugees and displaced agreement has brought peace. However, 3.86
people, and the continuing conflicts in Angola, million displaced people are still in need of food
Sudan, and Somalia, means that food aid will be aid and 5 million, including 1.5 million refugees,
needed in 1993. However, the provision of aid to need help with resettlement and recovery. The
help with recovery will be even more important in drought and conflict that have crippled
helping African countries to break the cycle of Mozambique will take years to overcome. Some
famine, and to take advantage of new US$710 million will be needed in 1993/4 to fund
opportunities for peace and development. People relief and recovery.
in Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Eritrea have their In Rwanda, 900,000 people, and in Angola,
first chance in decades to plant crops without fear over 3 million people, are urgently in need of
of being attacked. The following emergency and support because of conflict. The UN is appealing
recovery needs will need to be addressed in 1993. for $80m for Rwanda and 710,000 tonnes of food
In Somalia, where up to 300,000 people are aid for Angola. International support for the peace
estimated to have died in 1992 from starvation, negotiations is vital to prevent the situation in both
one million people will continue to rely on food countries deteriorating further.
aid in 1993. The revitalisation of agricultural In Zambia and Zimbabwe many people still
production and infrastructure will be a priority for rely on food aid, and millions need help in
1993 and 1994. Seeds, tools, and help with the restocking their animals and in re-planting. The
renovation of irrigation canals will be vital if continuing debt problem prevents both countries
Somalia is to recover. from financing recovery.
In Ethiopia, despite a good harvest and rains, Recovery aid will be essential for Mozambique,
pockets of food insecurity will persist in 1993. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Namibia and Zambia, if new
Food assistance will be required for 1.1 million steps towards democracy and peace are to
returnees and a further 880,000 demobilised succeed. In total some US$2.3 billion will be
soldiers and their dependants. A further 2.4 needed to fund UN emergency and recovery
million people are estimated to have been affected appeals for Africa in 1993. This includes US$251
by losses of crops and livestock. million for southern Africa, an extra US$710
In Eritrea, the improved security situation will million for Mozambique, and US$1,3 billion for the
lead to the return of half a million refugees, who Horn.
will need support with recovery. In addition,

Commission for Africa has identified 'the heavily subsidised exports from the USA and the
attainment of food self-sufficiency as the very first EC destroy domestic markets for local producers,
goal towards which Africa should strive'. reduce household incomes, and discourage
investment in agriculture. In Burkina. Faso, wheat
Food dumping imported from the EC is sold at $60 a ton - around a
third lower than the cost of producing and
Achieving that goal is made more difficult, in many marketing local food staples such as millet and
cases, by the impact of food imports on smallholder sorghum. The reason for the EC's competitive
producers. In West Africa, Oxfam has seen how advantage is the export subsidy of $100 a ton
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 29

provided under its Common Agricultural Policy. interests through surplus dumping. In Europe, as
Unable to compete with these subsidies, local recent disputes over sheep and fish imports have
agriculture has inevitably suffered, as have efforts shown, export dumping on the scale inflicted on
to improve self-reliance. Africa would be greeted by civil disturbance in
Nomadic herders in the Sahel region have faced some member-states. Yet it is inflicted on Africa
similar problems. In 1991, the EC exported 54,000 with total disregard for its impact on immeasurably
tons of beef to West Africa on heavily subsidised more vulnerable farmers and food systems. Apart
terms. While this is a tiny proportion - around 3 per from setting their farm-policy houses in order, the
cent - of the Community's beef mountain, it has industrial countries should support regional food
wrought havoc in local markets. Pastoral farmers, self-reliance efforts by financing triangular food-aid
grazing their herds on environmentally fragile operations (buying up surplus stocks in countries
lands, have been thrown into direct competition such as Zimbabwe for distribution elsewhere) and
with Europe's heavily subsidised meat industry - investing in food-security stockpiles.
with inevitable results. Already impoverished Unfortunately, neither of the world's 'farm
communities have been forced out of markets and superpowers' is contemplating a major reduction in
lost income, and regional trade in cattle has fallen export subsidisation at the GATT talks, where they
by a third. Oxfam's staff in countries such as have been conducting an agricultural trade war by
Burkina Faso and Senegal have witnessed the diplomatic means for the past seven years. This
resulting despair among pastoralists. So, too, have reinforces the case for sub-Saharan African
EC development officials, who have complained governments to protect their producers against
about the damaging effects of beef dumping on the cheap food imports through trade barriers.
Community-funded projects designed to enhance Paradoxically, however, they are being pressed to
the productive capacity of pastoral farmers: a classic liberalise food imports under structural adjustment
example of the almost schizophrenic discrepancy programmes sponsored by the IMF and World
between aid and trade policies. Bank, with potentially serious long-term conse-
The damaging effects of subsidised food quences for local agriculture. In Ghana, for example,
dumping on national and regional food security has the government has complained at the damage
been starkly illustrated by the experience of caused to local rice producers by the boom in cheap
Zimbabwe. By the mid-1980s, the country had imports which followed import liberalisation.
increased self-sufficiency to the point where it had
built up a stockpile of maize from which it was able Investing in the poor
to export to food-deficit neighbours. As the US-EC
'farm war' intensified, however, maize imports Raising agricultural productivity to achieve greater
flooded into local markets at prices around half the self-reliance in food will require major changes in
levels paid to Zimbabwean producers. By driving the policy priorities of African governments. In the
down prices, these imports left Zimbabwe's Grain past, there has been an anti-poor bias in agricultural
Marketing Board with a huge financial deficit and a policy across much of the region, notably through
maize stockpile which, under World Bank advice, it over-taxation of crops; inadequate spending on
was forced to sell at a loss. The result: Zimbabwe market infrastructure for smallholder producers;
was left without a strategic food reserve when the insufficient investment in research on local food
1992 drought struck, forcing the government to turn staples; and an undue concentration on irrigated,
to costly commercial imports to avert a food rather than rainfed, agriculture.
security crisis. One of the few exceptions to this rule has been
There is little doubt that, if freed from Zimbabwe. After independence in 1980, the new
competition from subsidised maize imports, government invested heavily in extension services
Zimbabwe could again become a major regional for smallholder farmers, providing them with seeds,
exporter: its maize is highly competitive, not only in fertilisers, and credit. At the same time, price
price, but also because it is a high-quality white incentives were introduced to support the
variety, which is preferred by regional consumers. expansion of maize cultivation. Within five years,
However, Zimbabwe will not fulfil its agricultural the country was producing an export surplus, with
potential in the face of continued food dumping by the share of smallholders in marketed production
Europe and the USA. rising from 10 per cent to 60 per cent.
Oxfam believes it is wrong for the EC and the The case of Zimbabwe illustrates what can be
USA, which both typically spend more than $20bn achieved with appropriate policies. But while
annually on agricultural over-production and raising agricultural production towards national
export subsidies, to damage African food-security and regional self-sufficiency levels is a necessary
30 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

condition for resolving Africa's deep-rooted food which have legally affirmed women's basic right to
crisis, it is not a sufficient condition. What is needed land ownership, cultural and economic constraints
is a redistributive strategy, aimed at reducing often combine to deny them effective ownership
poverty by improving the access of the poor to and control. Lacking legal title to land, having few
productive resources such as land, credit, and savings and typically producing staple foods on a
marketing infrastructure and services. small scale, women have little access to institutional
Inequality in access to land is especially stark in credit. In Lesotho, women farmers can claim loans:
parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with landlessness a but they require the written consent of their
growing problem in countries such as Ghana, husbands to do so, since their legal status is that of
Kenya, and Malawi. In Zimbabwe, one million minors. In Zambia laws governing land ownership
smallholder communal farms are restricted to half mean that women farmers are effectively ineligible
of the total area suited for agricultural production. for loans.
The other half is occupied by 4,500 large-scale Throughout Africa, Oxfam is involved in
commercial farmers, most of whom are white. working with small peasant farmers seeking to
Moreover, the commercial farms are almost all improve their ability to operate in food markets. In
located in areas with prime land and assured the Eastern Province of Zambia, it supports small-
rainfall, while communal farms operate mainly in scale revolving rural credit schemes, providing
drought-prone areas with poor soils. The grossly seeds, implements, and, sometimes, small amounts
unequal distribution of land explains why, despite of capital. Loans of seeds are repaid in kind from the
impressive gains in food production since the early following year's crop, building up the stock of seeds
1980s, almost half a million rural families are on which producers can draw. Oxfam's experience
vulnerable to malnutrition. Large-scale commercial with revolving loan funds and credit support
interests also dominate in Malawi, where huge systems is that low-income women in Africa are
foreign-owned tea and tobacco estates control much reliable borrowers (in contrast to the experience of
of the most fertile land, and benefit from state credit agencies, default is of negligible
government credit and marketing support. proportion), and willing to take risks. Their
Meanwhile poverty is endemic among smallholder extensive knowledge of food production and
farmers producing staple foods and cash crops such processing demands that they occupy a more central
as tobacco. role in the provision of credit assistance, and in the
Poor farmers - especially women - also suffer targeting of investment in food storage, transport
because infrastructural support is concentrated on and farm implements.
relatively well-off commercial farming areas. These initiatives are aimed at enabling the poor
Investment in rural roads and irrigation is typically to participate in markets on more favourable terms.
concentrated on these areas, while more marginal So, too, in our work in Burkina Faso, Oxfam is
and remote regions are overlooked. Large-scale supporting cereal banks set up by village co-
commercial farmers - such as those in Zimbabwe operatives. These help to stabilise grain prices by
and Malawi - also benefit fromaccess to credit (often buying from villagers after the harvest (when prices
on subsidised terms), while small producers are are low), and selling at controlled prices when local
typically excluded from credit markets. This denies stocks run out. Run by co-operative associations,
them access to other productive inputs, such as these banks enable villagers to challenge the often
fertiliser, seeds, oxen, and farming implements on monopolistic position of private traders, improving
which productivity depends. At the same time, the terms on which they participate in markets.
public and private research systems generally Elsewhere, Oxfam is supporting the introduction of
favour better-resourced producers of commercial less intensive technologies, such as small-scale
crops, while the needs of smallholders are ignored. grinding mills for crops like sorghum and millet,
Rural women are the most important, and most and rice dehullers. Apart from reducing labour
neglected, smallholder producers. They undertake demands, these technologies add value to crops.
the bulk of agricultural labour and produce an This increases the household incomes of peasant
estimated 70 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa's staple producers, and enables them to participate in local
food. They are also responsible for a multiplicity of markets on more favourable terms in relation to
other roles - such as child-rearing, cooking, fetching traders.
water and firewood, and marketing food staples - Oxfam's experience of working with smallholder
vital to household food security. Yet they are producers refutes the conventional idea that there is
systematically denied access to productive a necessary 'trade-off between growth and poverty.
resources. In many countries, customary practices With appropriate policies, the poor can participate
do not allow women to own land. Even in countries in growth and contribute to it. Not only is their
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 31

productivity easily raised by modest investment, migrate into tropical forest areas, exacerbating
but the potential returns on that investment, in problems of land degradation and deforestation.
terms of foreign exchange saved on food imports,
are often higher than in the 'modern' sector. Under Unsustainable exports
these circumstances, productivity-based poverty
alleviation is not just a matter of justice and equity: Pressure on rangeland and subsistence-farming
it is a requirement of economic efficiency. areas has been exacerbated by the spread of cash
crops for export - a process reinforced by the
Poverty and environment pressure on governments to generate foreign
exchange for debt repayments. In the drought years
Real and lasting food security in Africa will depend of 1983-84, the Sahelian countries produced record
on a sustainable and productive agricultural harvests of cotton at a time when massive food
resource base. Yet that base is being undermined by imports were needed to stave off famine. All too
accelerating environmental degradation. Soil often, these cash crops have been produced under
erosion affects more than three-quarters of intensive mono-cultural conditions, with serious
cultivable land, drastically reducing its productive consequences for soils deficient in moisture and
potential; and tropical forests, vital to the nutrients. Cotton production has had a negative
maintenance of fragile eco-systems, are being impact on soil erosion in countries such as Burkina
cleared at the rate of 5 million hectares annually. As Faso, because of its high moisture demands.
the Brundtland Commission observed in 1987, Similarly, soils in Senegal have become so depleted
poverty is both a cause and effect of this loss of by mechanised groundnut cultivation that the
environmental resources. 'No other region', it country has difficulty supplying its own refineries.
wrote, 'more tragically suffers the vicious cycle of The competing demands of commercial
poverty leading to environmental degradation, agriculture and environmental sustainability are
which leads in turn to even greater poverty.' Unless also evident in the Ivory Coast - once considered
that cycle is reversed, the number of people sub-Saharan Africa's export success story. That
suffering from poverty, hunger, and malnutrition 'success' was largely based on the conversion of
will grow. tropical forest land for the planting of cocoa and
Prolonged and devastating droughts, such as coffee; and on the exploitation of forest resources for
those which struck southern Africa in 1992 and the commercial timber exports. Debt-repayment
Sahel region in the mid-1980s, coupled with poor pressures and local commercial interests combined
soils and erratic and precipitate rainfall, makes to persuade the government to provide incentives
much of sub-Saharan Africa a difficult environment for opening up forest areas. However, foreign-
for agriculture. Traditionally, peasant farmers have exchange gains were transitory, and vastly
coped with Africa's fragile ecology by leaving soils outweighed by the environmental costs. With the
fallow for long periods, and developing complex slump in world commodity markets, the country's
inter-cropping systems, designed to minimise risk balance of payments position deteriorated sharply.
and maximise sustainability. Today, these systems The productivity of agriculture also declined, owing
are breaking down in the face of a range of mutually to the degradation of vegetation cover; and more
reinforcing local, regional, and international than 80 per cent of the tropical moist forest
pressures. disappeared. The ultimately self-defeating character
The belt of land running through the West of the Ivory Coast's success is reflected in the fact
African Sahel region and the Sudan to north-east that it is now expected to become a net importer of
Ethiopia and Kenya is particularly vulnerable. timber by the end of the decade.
Around 90 per cent of rangelands and 80 per cent of The rural poor, many of whom live in
rain-fed farmlands in the area are affected by environmentally fragile areas, are both the main
degradation - including soil erosion, deforestation, victims and the unwilling architects of soil
and loss of woody vegetation - which makes them degradation. Nomadic herders in the Sahel region,
less able to bear crops and pasture. increasingly impoverished as a result of drought
In countries with limited cultivable land and and the expansion of arable agriculture, have been
high population-growth rates - such as Kenya, forced to graze their herds on fragile grasslands.
Ethiopia, Malawi, and Rwanda - fallow periods are Similarly, staple-food producers working on
no longer sufficient to allow soil fertility to be marginal soils have little choice but to sacrifice the
restored, so that crop yields have fallen. In response, future for the present, clearing trees and mining
farmers have been forced either to bring soils in an unsustainable manner to provide a
increasingly marginal lands into cultivation, or to livelihood. They are often unable to invest in soil
32 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

and water conservation. Loss of tree cover Highlands - a site of particularly severe soil erosion.
contributes to erosion by exposing soils to wind and Following those discussions, Oxfam helped to
rain. It also results in women being forced to walk establish a nursery to propagate between nearly 1.5
increasingly long distances to collect and carry million tree seedlings annually. These were
home bundles of fuel-wood - a process that Oxfam distributed free to farmers for planting on
has witnessed right across the region. Apart from its individual plots, to help to improve moisture
implications for their health, this diverts their labour retention and bind soils. At the same time, Oxfam
from food production and household activities. used a food-aid programme to employ local
Nowhere is the lethal interaction of poverty and communities in large-scale terracing operations on
environmental degradation more evident than in steep slopes.
Ethiopia. About half of the country's highland area In Burkina Faso, Oxfam has worked for over a
is significantly eroded, reducing yields by between 2 decade with local communities in the Yatenga,
per cent and 3 per cent a year. According to a 1986 reclaiming severely degraded land by using
study by the UN Food and Agricultural Organis- traditional systems. These communities, working
ation, over 1,900 million tons of soil are lost from the alongside Oxfam staff, have revived a simple
highlands annually. If the trend continues, some method of building stone lines along the contours of
38,000 square kilometres will be eroded down to the fields, to conserve soil and water. The stones
bare rock by the year 2010, and a further 60,000 have the effect of slowing the rate at which water
square kilometres will have a soil depth of 10 runs off, maximising moisture infiltration, and
centimetres, below which the soil would be too reducing soil erosion. By increasing moisture
shallow to support cropping. About 2 million penetration, the diguettes (stone lines) increased crop
hectares of farmland are already estimated to be yields by up to 50 per cent, and have enabled totally
beyond recovery. degraded land to be restored. Where the stone lines
To compensate for the falling yields caused by have been built, soil levels have risen by up to six
soil erosion, farmers in the highlands have cleared inches in a year. The success of Oxfam's project in
forests on steeper slopes, accelerating land Burkina Faso was shown by the speed with which
degradation in the process. With population its techniques spread. In 1981, the diguettes had been
growing at around 3 per cent a year, and the built on only seven hectares; by 1987 farmers in
population density in some of the most vulnerable Yatenga had treated 1,200 hectares. Now the area
rural areas increasing even faster, the dangers posed covered exceeds 8,000 hectares, in over 400 villages.
by this cycle of increasing poverty, deforestation, Elsewhere in Africa, Oxfam has been supporting
and accelerating land degradation are readily a return to more sustainable systems of agricultural
apparent. production. In Zambia, government policy has long
encouraged- farmers to produce maize to the
Reclaiming the land exclusion of other crops, and to rely on high-
yielding hybrid varieties which are heavily
The sheer scale of sub-Saharan Africa's environ- dependent on imported chemical inputs. Traditional
mental crisis often leads to pessimism about the intercropping systems, in which farmers spread risk
region's recovery prospects. That sense of by growing crops such as beans, cow peas (which
pessimism has been reinforced by the failure of act as a natural fertiliser), sorghum, and groundnuts
large-scale aid initiatives, designed to enhance alongside maize have all but died out. So, too, has
environmental sustainability, to yield results. the use of local drought-resistant varieties of maize,
Oxfam's view, based on its experience of working which require less fertiliser.
with communities across Africa, is that the crisis can In 1990, Oxfam was approached by women
be resolved, but only through co-operation with and farmers from the villages of Chiyanjo and Tiyeseko
support for local community initiatives. in Zambia's Eastern Province, who were unable to
In many cases efforts to combat soil erosion have meet soaring prices of chemical fertilisers. They
failed, because aid donors and governments do not asked for help in the form of seeds and small
recognise that soil conservation requires an amounts of credit, for diversification into traditional
investment of labour and capital. Apart from the crop varieties, which they used for inter-cropping.
fact that these are typically in short supply, the The success of their efforts became apparent during
potential benefits, in terms of increased soil the 1992 drought, which affected them far less
productivity, are not realised for several years. severely than neighbouring villages which
These were among the important early lessons produced only hybrid maize. With the price of
which Oxfam learned from discussions with farmers imported chemicals spiralling because of
in the Hararghe area of Ethiopia's Eastern devaluation and the removal of subsidies, there is a
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 33

growing incentive for others to follow their example Thirdly, where tree planting and other conservation
- and Oxfam is facilitating contacts between the interventions are involved, they must not conflict
women of Chiyanjo, Tiyeseko, and other co- with the labour needs of the agricultural cycle, and
operatives. must produce timber,, fuel-wood, or fodder. Oxfam
There is no simple formula for reversing Africa's hopes that these principles will inform the
environmental crisis. But Oxfam's experience does forthcoming negotiations on the Desertification
offer some lessons. Firstly, the dynamics of Convention - one of the few potential benefits for
environmental degradation are reversible, but only sub-Saharan Africa to come out of the Rio Earth
in collaboration with local communities. It is often Summit in 1992.
forgotten by development 'experts' that the best But perhaps the most fundamental challenge is
people to speak on behalf of the poor are the poor to break the links between poverty and
themselves. Working with the poor requires the environmental degradation at source; namely, by
establishment of democratic and participative enhancing the capacity of the poor to expand their
structures at every level, and not just in national own incomes. This means increasing and improving
institutions. Secondly, to stand any hope of their access to land, making more capital available,
adoption, conservation methods must cost little or providing infrastructure, and investing in labour-
nothing in cash, increase yields, and improve intensive technologies and training for new skills.
household food security by minimising risk.
34 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

3 New opportunities and old threats

Peace and conflict the rebel movement, Renamo, which brought to an
end the war that has ravaged the country for almost
The ending of the Cold War raised hopes that two decades, has given the green light for more than
armed conflicts, for so long fuelled by superpower one million refugees and internally displaced people
rivalries, would become a thing of the past. The to return to their homes. They will be joined by over
UN's New Agenda for the Development of Africa in 100,000 demobilised soldiers. The reintegration of
the 1990s reflected those hopes, signalling a drive these people will require the provision of seeds and
for social and economic development. In tools, especially for the 300,000 who are returning to
Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, the ending of what were Renamo-held areas. It will also require
devastating wars has at last made this a possibility - major investment in health, education and
and it is vital that the opportunity for recovery is sanitation.
grasped. Elsewhere, however, the glimmer of hope Generous support from donors will be needed if
has been overwhelmed by violent conflicts, with that investment is to be made. The Mozambican
countries such as Somalia, Angola, Liberia, Rwanda, economy, which has stagnated since 1990, cannot
and the Sudan still in the grip of brutal civil wars. generate the financial resources needed for
Failure to defuse these crises has led to a recovery, especially against the background of last
growing dependence on the international com- year's drought. According to the World Bank,
munity. So far, however, Northern governments, foreign funding of $1.2bn is needed for the
acting through the UN, have not been equal to the country's Economic and Social Recovery Pro-
task. Inadequate support for reconstruction could gramme to stay on course. Similar amounts are
threaten the peace in Ethiopia and Mozambique, likely to be needed in subsequent years, and it is
depriving millions of people of their right to a more vital for the donor community to reduce uncertainty
secure future. Meanwhile, UN and Organisation for by making long-term financial commitments to
African Unity (OAU) support for peace initiatives in support recovery. More immediately, there is a
other countries has been undermined by insufficient danger of the UN-backed Emergency Programme
financial and political backing. Without that for 1993-1994 being undermined by inadequate
backing, there is a real danger of countries support. According to the UN, over $700m is
continuing to tear themselves apart, with devas- needed immediately to help fund relief and
tating consequences for development. recovery in key sectors.
In Ethiopia and Eritrea the challenge of
Supporting the peace reconstruction is equally daunting - and the
international response has been less than decisive.
For the past fifteen years Mozambique and the Horn In Ethiopia, emergency aid for displaced people,
of Africa have endured appalling suffering, with demobilised troops, and victims of famine has been
civil war claiming the lives of millions of citizens. provided. But development assistance has been
Those wars, which were fuelled by Cold War slow in coming, partly because of donor concern
rivalries and fought with weapons suplied by about the stability of the transitional government
Western and Eastern-bloc governments, are now established in 1991. That could change following an
over. But they have left a legacy of economic agreement with the World Bank towards the end of
decline, huge numbers of displaced people, 1992. But with the economy having contracted by 6
shattered infrastructures, chronic food shortages, per cent last year, and a trade deficit running at over
and widespread malnutrition. The obstacles to $513 million annually, the opportunity for economic
reconstruction are more formidable even than those rehabilitation opened by peace is in danger of being
which faced Germany after the Second World War. lost.
But without recovery there is a real danger of Like Ethiopia, Eritrea faces not only the task of
conflict resurfacing in the face of growing social and rehabilitating refugees and displaced people, but of
economic tensions. That is why it is vital for the having to raise agricultural production in the face of
international community to use its resources to help
massive environmental problems. Oxfam is helping
to win the peace and create a more self-reliant
through its support for the country's Agricultural
future. Indeed, it has a vested interest as well as a
Rehabilitation Programme. Assistance has been
moral responsibility to do so, since the alternative is
given to farmers in the form of seeds, agricultural
indefinitely to support costly emergency relief
implements such as hoes, spades, and sickles, and
oxen or camels for ploughing. But having won a
It is difficult to exaggerate the scale of Africa's thirty-year struggle for self-determination, the
reconstruction needs. In Mozambique, the long- people of Eritrea will need massive international
awaited peace accord between the government and assistance to rebuild their country. With half a
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 35

million refugees expected to return over the next relatively peacefully, in October 1992, the peace
two years, that assistance must be promptly accord collapsed when the rebel movement's leader,
delivered and carefully targeted. Jonas Savimbi, alleging electoral fraud, refused to
Through its work in supporting post-conflict accept defeat. The handful of UN observers in the
reconstruction, Oxfam has become increasingly country were powerless to enforce the result, or to
aware of the threat posed by landmines. Widely prevent renewed fighting.
used to disrupt infrastructures in countries such as That fighting now threatens hundreds of
Mozambique, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and thousands of Angolan civilians with famine, to
Rwanda, these mines have already killed or maimed which the international community will have to
thousands of civilians returning to their homes in respond through emergency assistance. But hard
areas previously racked by conflict. Earlier this year questions must be asked about the role of the UN in
we gained personal experience of their tragedy failing to prevent the collapse of the peace process.
when our project officer in the Zambezia province Firstly, there can be little doubt that the UN
of Mozambique, where Oxfam is supporting operation was seriously under-funded - a fact
resettlement, was killed by a landmine. Increased which the Secretary General's Special Represent-
UN assistance in removing mines is urgently ative conceded when she complained of being asked
required. So, too, are more effective international to 'fly a jumbo jet with fuel for a DC 3'. In Namibia,
laws to protect civilians from the indiscriminate use with its much smaller population and vastly better
of anti-personnel mines. That is why Oxfam is infrastructure, the peace process and 1989 elections
supporting the ratification and strengthening of the were overseen by 6,500 personnel, with a budget of
1981 Landmines Protocol and the establishment of a $450 million. By contrast, there were fewer than 500
fund to support mine-clearance operations. UN soldiers in Angola, and the budget allocated to
the country was only $132 million. Secondly, the
UN's mandate was highly restrictive in that it was
Political support limited to monitoring rather than enforcement.
Political support for peace and the transition to Thirdly - and, admittedly, in retrospect - it is clear
democracy is equally vital. In Mozambique there that the decision to allow the electoral process to go
were only 21 observers in the country when the ahead in the face of flagrant breaches by UNITA of
timetable for disarmament started in October 1992. the demobilisation and disarmament agreement
Had there been a more substantial presence, the was fundamentally flawed.
renewed sporadic fighting in the northern provinces The lessons of the UN's hapless intervention in
of Zambezia and Nampula, which could have Angola must be learned and acted on if it is to retain
blown the peace process off course, might have been credibility as a force for peace in sub-Saharan
avoided. Unfortunately, that warning appears not to Africa. Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali has
have been heeded. Although the Security Council already warned of the dangers of becoming
agreed to send 7,500 troops to oversee involved in operations where it has insufficient
demobilisation and disarmament in December 1992, financial resources at its disposal to operate
they had still not arrived by March 1993, because of effectively, and a clearly inadequate mandate. It is
delays in the provision of finance by member states. up to the international community to provide both.
In Angola, hopes for reconstruction and But African governments themselves need to show
development have been blown very far off course - greater resolve in supporting conflict-resolution.
thanks, in part, to the UN's inadequate response. In Tanzania's efforts to broker a peaceful settlement of
May 1991, the peace accord signed by the Angolan the conflict in Rwanda is a good example of what
government and the Movement for the Total can be achieved. But in Liberia, differences between
Independence of Angola (UNITA) appeared to offer members of the Economic Community of West
hope of an end to a war which had left over 300,000 African States, which provides a peace-keeping
dead. The UN assumed responsibility for force, have combined with apparent indifference on
monitoring the ceasefire, overseeing demobilisation the part of Western governments to allow
and the creation of a single army, and supervising government and rebel forces to carry on mass
an electoral process. However, it had insufficient killings. Unless this policy inertia ends, Liberia is
troops to enforce compliance with the demobil- likely to follow Somalia's route to endless anarchy
isation timetable. Consequently, only around a and hunger.
quarter of UNITA's forces had been demobilised by International responses to the humanitarian
the time of the October 1992 election, and the rebel emergencies associated with conflicts in Africa have
movement still controlled about a fifth of the left much to be desired. It should not have taken the
country. While the elections themselves passed off deaths of up to 300,000 Somalis to persuade the
36 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

international community of the need for action to El Salvador, the UN has overseen the implemen-
prevent the disruption of relief programmes by tation of a complex peace accord and is successfully
armed groups. Indeed, an effective UN peace- enforcing a disarmament agreement. Providing
making force should have been deployed long political polarisation does not derail the peace
before the massive humanitarian effort launched in process leading up to the 1994 election, there is now
October 1992, instead of waiting for what amounted a framework for sustainable recovery.
to a unilateral US initiative. More recently, the Oxfam believes that the central lesson to emerge
international community has also displayed a lack from the recent history of the UN is at once simple
of political will in failing to press for adequate and compelling: namely, peace-keeping does not
arrangements to guarantee food-aid delivery to come cheap, but it is a bargain by comparison with
areas of southern Sudan now facing famine. Both the alternative of responding to the emergency
cases illustrate the need for the UN to adopt a more needs generated by war.
resolute approach, and one that is better co- Increased resources could be made available if
ordinated to meet humanitarian need. member states met their payment arrears, which
now amount to about $500m. Almost half of this
The role of the UN sum is owed by the US, and the Clinton
administration's commitment to clearing these in
The inadequacies of UN interventions in Africa can the face of severe domestic budgetary pressures is to
be traced in part to the mounting financial be welcomed. So too is the decision of the US
constraints under which it is operating. In recent Congress to establish a reserve fund to support
years, great demands have been placed on the UN emergency peace-keeping operations. Similar
by its interventions to bring humanitarian relief in initiatives are needed from other countries,
the Balkans and Somalia, by what amounts to including the UK. Measures are also needed to
trusteeship in Cambodia, and by growing involve- speed up disbursements on peace-keeping opera-
ment in regional conflict-resolution and electoral tions, which remain painfully slow (with only 36 per
supervision worldwide. Member states have failed cent of dues paid during the first three months of a
to commit financial resources commensurate with mission, on average). The creation by the General
this expanding role. As a result, the $300m UN Assembly of a $150 million fund to pay for the
peacekeeping budget for Mozambique - inadequate initial costs of operations will help to improve the
as it is - was squeezed out of funds originally situation, but Oxfam believes that a much larger
committed for other purposes; and the peace- fund of around $400 million is needed. At the same
keeping force is being assembled by trimming the time, new and additional finance must be made
UN presence in a dozen peace-keeping operations available to meet the demands and priorities set by
in other parts of the world. member states. If they are not, the credibility of the
The assured and timely delivery of funds to meet UN will suffer, as its resources become too thinly
UN obligations in Africa is vital if the international spread to be effective.
community is effectively to support peace efforts. It Apart from improving the UN's financial
is unrealistic to expect the UN to provide the position, member states must also expand its
necessary infrastructure for peace and humanitarian humanitarian mandate. The lesson of recent years,
relief in the face of an uncertain and inadequate from the Balkans to Somalia, is that claims to
flow of funds. national sovereignty must be balanced against the
Oxfam believes that it is not beyond the capacity responsibility of the international community to
of member states to increase their investment in relieve human suffering. Balancing these claims in a
peace-keeping and peace-making. While their $5.2 way that is seen to be even-handed and fair is the
billion expenditure may appear large, it is less than prime responsibility of the UN, and for this reason it
the cost of two Stealth bombers or the combined is important that its interventions are determined by
costs of the New York police and fire departments. humanitarian need, rather than the strategic
Moreover, the costs of supporting effective peace- interests of powerful members of the security
keeping and conflict-resolution pale by comparison Council. Oxfam believes the current restructuring of
with the costs of inadequate investment. The failed the UN must urgently address the need for a more
peace-keeping operation in Angola cost over $132m, accountable and effective humanitarian system,
and the international community is now faced with including the need for better coordination between
the prospect of responding to a protracted different parts of the UN in New York and Geneva.
emergency. It would surely have been far better in In particular, one person, accountable to the
cost terms - let alone humanitarian terms - to have Security Council, should be given responsibility for
invested slightly more and done the job properly. In coordinating UN humanitarian, diplomatic, and
Africa, make or break: action for recovery 37

peacekeeping activities in countries affected by The transfer of power in Namibia from the
conflict. apartheid regime to a majority-rule government
headed by the South West African People's
Democracy and dictatorship Organisation (SWAPO) marked an earlier water-
shed in the changing political geography of sub-
The 1990s began against a backdrop of political Saharan Africa. That example may soon be followed
transformation in the former Soviet Union and by South Africa, the region's most powerful state,
countries of Eastern Europe, with economically and which is undergoing a painful transition from
morally bankrupt governments collapsing in the apartheid oligarchy to a broadly-based democracy.
face of popular movements for democracy. These The depth of commitment to creating more
profound changes have taken place under the representative government has been particularly
microscope of Western media attention. But the striking in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Mozambique,
advance of democracy has not been confined to, or where moves towards democracy are proceeding in
exclusively led by, Eastern and Central Europe. the unfavourable climate of post-war reconstruction
Africa too has witnessed a democratic revolution, and economic disintegration.
which has shaken the foundations of authorit- These are encouraging developments. However,
arianism and autocracy across the region. That progress towards greater democracy has been far
revolution, driven by popular demands from below, from uniform. In Cameroon, a fraudulent election in
is unfinished and under a twin threat: from 1992 was followed by the wholesale repression of
unrepresentative regimes bent on retaining power opposition groups. Open electoral malpractice,
at any price, and from the social tensions generated ranging from ballot rigging to intimidation, was
by poverty. Overcoming that threat is vital because also a feature of the Presidential election in Ghana
the growing democratisation movement could make and of regional elections in Nigeria, where the
an important contribution towards framing policies President General Babangida has promised a
conducive to economic recovery, equity, and 'guided transition' to civilian rule. Immediately
accountability. before the regional elections last year, the Nigerian
National Election Commission found that voter
registers had been inflated by around 20 million
Political change names, with the result that the electorate in some
Until the mid-1980s, one-party governments ruled areas was larger than the total population!
four-fifths of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Elsewhere, a handful of autocrats continue
Assorted socialist and nationalist ideologies served openly to defy both the letter and spirit of democ-
as a convenient smoke-screen for arbitrary and bad racy, maintaining fossilised regimes through
government, corruption, and self-seeking political violence and repression. In Malawi, the 'Life
elites across much of the region. Today, the political President', Kamuzu Banda, has responded to the
map of Africa is changing, and multi-party elections challenge of a popular and increasingly bold demo-
and democratic reforms are increasingly common. cratic movement by arrest-ing its leaders, and
Perhaps the most potent symbol of this change is brutally repressing popular protest. Zaire's
Zambia. In 1991, Kenneth Kaunda and his United President Mobutu is another conspicuous relic of
National Independence Party (UNIP), in power the old autocratic order. Over the past three decades
since independence in 1964, were swept from office he has turned what should be one of Africa's most
by the Movement for a Multi-Party Democracy prosperous nations into a personal fiefdom, ruling
(MMD) - a disparate coalition headed by a former by a mixture of force and fraud. In 1991, he
trades unionist, Frederick Chiluba. The MMD, a appeared to bow to national and international
product of the deep public resentment over the pressure, agreeing to share power with a national
corruption and inefficiency of the UNIP govern- political conference set up under a US-sponsored
ment, won over 85 per cent of the popular vote; and plan. However, he promptly under-mined the
to his credit Kaunda retired gracefully. In West conference's credibility, curtailing its powers and
Africa, both Mali and Benin saw old-style dictators seeking to control appointments. Since then,
removed by more democratic forces during 1992. Mobutu, apparently immune to popular sentiment,
More recently, in February this year, Madagascar has been locked in a bitter struggle with a reformist
joined the ranks of new democracies after peaceful prime minister, Etienne Tshisekedi. He has also
protests by hundreds of thousands of people forced unleashed a wave of military repression against
the dictatorial President Ratsikira to hold an popular protests in a desperate effort to retain
election, which he lost decisively to a united office, plunging Zaire into a downward spiral of
opposition. chaos and violence in the process.
38 Africa, make or break: action for recovery

In many ways, Banda and Mobutu are creatures to 'good governance'. Firstly, it is typically assumed
of Western governments, who nurtured them that democratic reforms and rapid moves towards
during the Cold War as a bulwark against the free-market economic measures go hand-in-hand.
perceived threat of communist influence in Africa, Compliance with World Bank-IMF adjustment
which was seen then as a vital source of strategic policies has thus been a feature of aid conditionality.
minerals. Human rights abuse, the plunder of But as we have seen, the success of these policies is
national treasuries, and the misappropriation of aid unproven. Moreover, democratic governments
were seen as a small price to pay for what passed unable to reverse declining living standards and
for 'stability'. Part of Mobutu's problem now is that deliver basic health and education services are
the ending of the Cold War has brought with it a unlikely to enjoy more than a temporary stay in
preference for greater democracy on the part of office. This is why Northern governments have a
previously indifferent Western governments. In responsibility to support democracy, in Africa
1990, Britain's Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd financially as well as politically.
summarised the new mood among the international Secondly, Western donors tend to treat
donor community with a stark warning to Africa: democracy as being synonymous with multi-party
'Governments which persist with repressive elections. As some of the cases cited above illustrate,
policies, corrupt management and wasteful, this is too mechanical an approach. Even in Zambia,
discredited economic systems should not expect us a textbook example of electoral good practice, the
to support their folly with scarce aid resources.' MMD government is displaying some of the
President Mitterand of France, Africa's largest characteristics of its corrupt predecessor. Mean-
source of bilateral aid, reinforced this message, while, in Uganda, where political parties are legal,
promising that aid would be 'more tepid for but not allowed to campaign for office, the National
regimes which behave in an authoritarian manner, Resistance Movement government encompasses a
without accepting the evolution towards democ- wide range of political opinion and ethnic diversity.
racy'. Meanwhile, the United States has become the Through the Resistance Council system, the NRM
most vocal - and most interventionist - proponent has developed an alternative model for promoting
of multi-party elections. participation, accountability, and a sense of nation-
hood. The system is built on a representative
'Good governance' structure stretching from village to national level.
There is a further problem with the narrow focus
By making aid flows conditional on 'good of Western donors on multi-party systems. In many
governance', Western governments have given cases, a headlong rush into multi-party elections,
important impetus to movements for democracy. designed in part to satisfy donors, can serve as a
Last year, Malawi's aid donors suspended all non- green light for the disintegration of states under the
emergency financial flows in the face of repeated weight of ethnic, religious, and tribal rivalries. Yet
human rights abuses, and Zaire has received similar the international community has done little to
treatment from the USA, Belgium, and France. support the development of federal and power-
Similar pressure succeeded in pushing Kenya's sharing structures capable of containing these
President Arap Moi reluctantly towards multi-party potentially centrifugal tendencies.
elections. However, aid donors frequently continue Ultimately, Oxfam believes that democracy must
to turn a blind eye to dictatorial tendencies where be viewed - and judged - as a process through
commercial interests are involved, or to justify which local communities are given a voice in
support for regimes that can claim economic shaping issues which affect their lives. This requires
success. For example, France has adopted a hands- open and accountable government. But it also
off approach to autocratic rulers in the Gabon requires a redistribution of political and economic
(where it has oilfields) and the Ivory Coast (a major power towards the poor, enabling them to assert
market). In the case of Kenya, the British control over their own lives. The simple fact is that
government preferred 'quiet persuasion' to aid democracy cannot flourish where the majority of
sanctions for several years, despite well- people are denied their basic rights; or where a
documented oppression of the pro-democracy grossly unequal distribution of resources is reflected
movement. And in Ghana, long regarded by the in the political influence of small minorities. This is
World Bank as its main African 'success story', the why real democratisation requires redistributive
donor community has turned a blind eye to human social and economic policies, as well as greater
rights abuses, and to electoral malpractice.
accountability on the part of government.
Looking beyond the matter of consistency, there
are two other problems with the dominant approach