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Africa Today 48.3 (2001) 172-174

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Paulson, Jo Ann, ed. 1999. African Economies in Transition. vol. 1, The Changing Role of the State, Vol. 2, The Reform Experience. London: MacMillan, and New York: St. Martin's. 342 pp. and 370 pp.

The provenance of these two volumes is slightly strange. They result from a research program paid for by Japanese government trust funds and run from the World Bank, the objective of which was to find whether there were lessons to be learned from African reform experience of the late 1980s [End Page 172] and early 1990s that could ease the adjustment process in Mozambique. The initial intent had been to focus on countries with essentially socialist governments that had liberalized their economies, but in practice data and other limitations resulted in a broadening to look at a variety of reform experiences. The essays were commissioned in 1992 and 1993, and the cutoff point in most of them is the mid-1990s; no explanation for the long delay before publication is provided.

The scope of the research program is indicated by the chapter titles. In volume 1, five chapters deal with strictly macroeconomic issues, and two with privatization. In volume 2, four chapters deal with specific countries, namely Angola, Congo, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Tanzania; and two discuss agriculture and agricultural reform. Most of the contributors were associated with either the World Bank or the University of Oxford when the work was done, with just a couple of U.S. academics and one well known U.S. consultant. One of the interesting aspects of the product of this program is that the individual chapters are very diverse, and there is little hint of a World Bank line running through the volumes. For example, the last chapter in the second volume, by Christopher Barrett and Michael Carter, on "microeconomically coherent agricultural policy reform," takes as one of its premises that "there are substantive conceptual failures in neoliberal designs of agricultural liberalisation, just as there were crucial errors in the dirigiste prescriptions of an earlier era" (p. 290). The chapter in question is a good summary of the practical difficulties of connecting grass-roots signals, incentives, and constraints to national policy reforms, and ensuring that the desired consequences of reform measures are actually realized.

In volume 1, a good ten page introduction by the editor is followed by two chapters on government and the role of the state, with the editor and Michael Gavin focusing on "formerly-socialist economies of Africa," and Edgardo Brandiaran "emerging market economies," although the significance of the difference in terminology is not obvious. In practice, Brandiaran has a fairly heavy emphasis on Angola. David Bevan and Paul Collier then contribute a chapter on the "macroeconomics of the transition from African socialism," which is followed by two chapters by Collier and Jan Willem Gunning, the first on exchange rate management and the second on the "impact of liberalisation on private investment." Elliot Berg then has a survey chapter on privatization, which of course had not gotten very far at the time of writing, followed by a commentary that focuses on regulation and the macroeconomics of transition in the context of privatization by Christopher Adam.

In volume 2, we start with a chapter on Angola and Mozambique, focusing specifically on the consequences of their civil wars for the economy, by Luiz Pereira da Silva and Andres Solimano. This is followed by an examination of "bureaucracy, socialism, and adjustment" in Congo and Madagascar by Daniel Tommasi. Michael Gavin then returns with a discussion of saving and investment in Tanzanian reform, followed by a chapter on "structural adjustment and the manufacturing industry" in Mozambique [End Page 173] by Roberto Tibana. Stephen Jones then contributes a chapter on "agriculture and economic reform in African socialist economies" before the final chapter by Barrett and Carter referred to above.

The content of these two volumes is so disparate, and so dated, that it is hard to give a firm summary judgment. There is, in general, very little good economic analysis of the experience of countries like Angola, Congo...


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