- Socio-Economic Development in Africa: Challenges and Dimensions ed. by Alexius Amtaika
Socio-Economic Development in Africa: Challenges and Dimensions is a collection of essays that discusses the historical, political, social, and economic ramifications of development policies on the African continent. Its first two chapters discuss the theoretical concepts of development and the role of the state, cultural and political development theories, modernization theory, Rostow’s five stages of economic growth, and the countertheories that emerged to critique these linear and simplistic models of socioeconomic progress, such as dependency theory, which asserts that the international economy functions to disadvantage developing countries, regardless of aid and support. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund’s structural-adjustment programs (SAPs), based on neoliberal theories of privatization, free trade, and governmental retrenchment, are discussed in several chapters of the book.
The rest of the book uses case studies to discuss implications of the ways that theories and policies like SAPs have affected the plight of Africans and the legitimacy and power of their governments. Ben Weiss’s chapter on [End Page 110] Zambia describes the way Zambia’s macroeconomic policies, made via SAPs, eroded the country’s health sector in the 1970s and 1980s. He discusses how SAPs redesigned the country’s economy and budget to service the interest on loans from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, rather than invest in public services, including health. Thus, many government-owned clinics became underresourced, and the cap on wages led many health professionals to work in private health settings, rather than in government facilities. However, as many poor Zambians could not afford to pay fees to see a health professional, the SAPs commodified a public good, affecting access to health care. Though SAPs were an economic path to development, they had a multisector impact on citizens’ health, education, and general welfare.
Though this book makes some generalizations about Africa’s development, most of its case studies look at southern African countries, specifically South Africa. Kenneth Kalu, in a chapter on institutions and development, says the historical legacies of colonialism and slavery—major episodes of corruption, extraction, and exploitation by the state—continue to define the governmental system in many countries. Corruption and extraction are hallmarks of weak institutions, as this means they are not monitoring and enforcing the rules fairly. The state in countries whose institutions are perceived to be corrupt has difficulty attracting long-term investors to develop the economy sustainably. Kalu offers the World Economic Forum’s rankings to show that African countries are uncompetitive for global investors.
This volume provides various perspectives on African countries’ development and trajectories; however, it finds no consensus on what path Africa should take. It offers no new conceptual knowledge of development theories and practices, though it does offer a critical and comprehensive debate on the topic. Those likeliest to be interested in it would be undergraduate students and readers new to development studies, as the initial section lays a solid foundation for understanding the evolution of development theories, and the remaining chapters apply the empirical theories to the realities of how the countries (under)developed.