Africa’s Economic Development: A Critique

Published on 21st January 2020

Since independence Africa has stagnated if not regressed. The economic development models adopted by African countries since independence have produced suffering. The paper should examine what has led to this, examine the international trading regime, the impact of the Bretton Woods institutions, the impact of the Geneva Convention, IMF and World Bank, Donor Funding model and capital flight as a result of minerals stolen from the continent.

Internally it should look at the capacity built by post-independence states, the stability mechanism provided by the state. The paper should draw lessons on what other countries faced with similar conditions have done differently, examine what we did wrong since independence and what should be done differently.


It is my contention that the independence of most of African countries has been nominal; it has never had real independence. That is the reason most African countries adopted economic development models that caused suffering instead of respite.

Is it naive and absurd to blame African underdevelopment and its psychological, political, economic and social consequences on the colonial control and exploitation alone? Almost all African, states except one, are now independent, albeit only politically (and even that is doubtful); however, independence has not resolved the numerous inherited problems.

Professor Marimba Ani says what compelled her to write her book Yurugu: An African Centred Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behaviour is the conviction that beneath this deadly onslaught (political domination, cultural and psychological rape) lies a stultifying intellectual mystification that prevents Europe’s political victims from thinking in a manner that would lead to authentic self-determination. Intellectual decolonisation is a prerequisite for the creation of successful political decolonisation and cultural reconstruction strategies. She continued to say that Europe’s political imperialistic success can be accredited not so much to superior military might, as to the weapon of culture. The former ensures more immediate control but requires continual physical force for the maintenance of power, while the latter succeeds in long-lasting dominance that enlists the cooperation of its victims (i.e. pacification of the will). The secret Europeans discovered early in their history is that culture carries rules for thinking, and if you could impose your culture on your victims you could limit the creativity of their vision, destroying their ability to act with will and intent and in their own interest. The truth is that we are all “intellectuals,” all potential visionaries.

Agippah T. Mugomba writes that one of the most glaring contradictions of the postcolonial era in Africa is the existence of nominal political independence alongside economic dependency. Those who control the economic empire are also in a position to frustrate the political aspirations of the managers of the political kingdom. Further still, they are able to introduce new forms of dependency, which blunts economic nationalism and consequently renders militant ideology impotent.

There is a relationship between political decolonisation and economic dependence in Africa

The World Bank, IMF, and World Trade Organisation are the keystone international economic organisations (KIEO’s) of the contemporary international political economy; they are the principal multilateral institutions which dictate coherence and stability to the international monetary, financial, and commercial systems. They are the pillars of the neoliberal international economic order.

Cheryl Payer holds that the World Bank is perhaps the most important instrument of the developed capitalist countries for prying state control of its Third World member countries out of the hands of nationalists and socialists who would regulate international capital’s inroads, and turning that power to the service of international capital.

The World Bank, IMF and the World Trade Organisation are instruments for bringing developing countries into the capitalist, or US-dominated, order and ensure that they pursue policies appropriate to this order. The US and other developed capitalist countries dictate the policies of the KIEOs. These three institutions’ policies and programmes result in blocking possibilities for indigenous economic growth within developing countries and preventing social transformation. Compliance with KIEOs’ policies puts unfair and disproportionate burdens on the poor and disadvantaged within developing countries, (China’s Participation in the IMF, World Bank and GATT); Toward a Global Economic Order Harold K. Jacobson and Michel Oksenberg.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, African countries found themselves trapped in World Bank and IMF loans that put African countries in a debt trap from which it was difficult to extricate themselves because of the interest that had to be paid on those loans. The loans were extended with conditions.

When the IMF and World Bank design adjustment programmes they rely on three major types of policies:

1. Demand restraint which includes reduction in government expenditure, a ceiling on credit expansion, increased taxation and wage restraint

2. Switching of resources to tradables by using policy instruments like devaluation and price reform

3. Policies emphasizing improvement of the medium and long term efficiency of the economy, which includes instruments like financial reform and import liberalisation.

These loans had conditions put on borrowing countries known as conditionalities. In the early 1990’s the new South Africa borrowed $850,000 from these institutions. South Africa also paid the debt to the tune of R27 billion owed by the apartheid government.

Trade liberalisation means opening up the economies of developing countries to western powers while western powers employ protectionism.

Exclusive Economic Zone under the Geneva Convention has preserved certain important rights for other states – rights which in fact belong to the international community in contrast to those which belong to the coastal states. This has the potential to militate against weak and smaller states and can therefore hamper economic development.

Capital flight amounts to millions of money siphoned out of the continent by Western powers. The tide of capital flight can be stemmed by putting in place foreign currency exchange controls as R.T. Naylor explains in his book Hot Money and the Politics of Debt.

European powers plotted and planned to conquer the world and establish a “new world order” despite the fact that rivalries existed among different European powers. The new world order is the establishment of a one-world totalitarian government. To accomplish their nefarious plan, European powers met at the Berlin Conference of 1885 and shared Africa among themselves.

Africa lost power more than 500 years ago during the Atlantic slave trade. The West used racism (white supremacy) to eviscerate Africa economically.

In the existing system of Racism (White Supremacy) when the term is undefined and poorly understood, there is general confusion and chaos on the part of the victims of that system (local, national and global). It then becomes impossible for the victims of Racism (White Supremacy) to effectively counter the global system of Racism (White Supremacy). The African enslavement, imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, fascism, etc are all dimensions and aspects of Racism (White Supremacy).

Globalisation is a sophisticated form of oppression spearheaded by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The WTO came from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which was established in 1947. Just like the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the United Nations Organisation, was created after the Second World War by the same crowd of people. These institutions are instruments by which white supremacists and their lackeys pursue the “new world order” which is a dictatorial one-world government.

They use an intricate web of secret societies and private organizations to achieve their nefarious objectives. They are the Knights of Malta, Freemasons, Opus Dei, Propaganda Due, Skull and Bones, Trilateral Commission, Council on Foreign Relations and the Bilderberg Group just to mention a few.

The Bilderbergers meet every year prior to the G8 summit and the G8 heads of state take their cue from the Bilderbergers. Only two black people according to my knowledge attended the Bilderderberg Group meetings whom I referred to as lackeys of white supremacists. They are Vernon Jordan and Barak Obama. Colin Powell also attends. These are organizations that determine our destiny. President Jacob Zuma addressed the Council on Foreign Relations in October 2008 and his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe also addressed it.

The primary crisis in African life is the ‘cultural crisis’ i.e., a crisis in views and especially, values. This crisis is seen to manifest itself in our usually unconscious adoption of the western worldview and perspective and their attendant conceptual frameworks. It is within these Eurocentric frameworks, in particular in the spiritual alienation they engender – with their core values of materialism, objectification, individualism and competition – that Afrocentricity locates the origins of human and social problems.


The re-emergence of the national question reflects the profound impasse of capitalism on a world scale and the failure of the leaders of the workers’ organizations to offer a way out. There can no longer be any solution of the national question on a capitalist basis. Capitalism, rather than resolving the national question, has in its decline exacerbated the problem worldwide.

Most post independence governments in Africa especially the ruling parties adopted the economic system of capitalism.  And in South Africa the ruling party also guaranteed whites that they will keep their ill-gotten wealth through The Property Clause, Section 25 of the country’s constitution. This constitution is a product of an imperialist-brokered negotiated settlement in which some members of the ANC held secret talks with representatives of the Apartheid regime. The dispossession of black South Africans continues unabated in post Apartheid South Africa consolidating farm ownership in fewer hands.

For example in South Africa when the ANC came to power in 1994, the ‘priority’ of land redistribution was allocated 0.3 per cent of the national budget. In 2005, it was still less than 1 per cent (Apartheid Did Not Die: Freedom Next Time by John Pilger). Land which is an indivisible collective property is the basis of all wealth. Under such circumstances, how do we expect to resolve the National Question?

It is clear that the fruits of “freedom” have not been distributed equitably among the African people in this country and other African countries. The reason is that the political elites who challenged colonialism successfully were also seen by the colonialists as the best guardians of capitalist interests: they were therefore cultivated and nurtured to play the unacceptable role of defenders or custodians of foreign interests. By doing so, the colonial powers actually aborted (paradoxically with the connivance of the new elites) the African revolution that had begun after the Second World War.

Secondly, Africans assumed control over institutions that had never been designed to serve majority interests. Indeed, the rules and procedures in the independence constitutions had been defined by the very interests relinquishing formal political control. Thus were the ascending African elites expected to repeat the processes they had seen in operation during their period of apprenticeship at the terminal stages of colonial rule. Modifications were introduced to suit the preferences of the succeeding African elites, but in the majority of cases independence constitutions were modeled on pre-independence ones. This expedient arrangement is precisely responsible for the contradictions inherent in the post-independence models of African leadership and government.

African leaders have encountered difficulties in maintaining a balance between the expectations of the former colonial powers on the one hand, and the African masses on the other.

There are people in this day and era who still ask if Black Consciousness and Pan Africanism are still relevant today. The mental de-colonisation of the educated elites and the masses has to run concurrently with formal de-colonisation. The disease of elitism has been correctly diagnosed which needs curative doses of political education and ideological reorientation to the entire population.


African leaders should rethink the economic development models they adopted for the continent and perhaps try something along the lines of Julius Nyerere’s social and economic development model of Ujamaa, an indigenous developed model that is worthy of emulation.

In the preface to his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney wrote, inter alia, Hopefully, the facts and interpretation that follow will make a small contribution towards reinforcing the conclusion that African development is possible only on the basis of a radical break with the international capitalist system, which has been the principal agency of underdevelopment of Africa over the last five centuries.

Finally, there is a desperate need to dismantle colonial institutions and structures in order to foster genuine political, economic, and social changes (Independence without Freedom, A T Mugomba and Mougo Nyaggah).

By Sam Ditshego

This paper was originally written for the Worldwide Pan African Convention that was held in Azania (South Africa). The writer was one of the people who were requested to be one of the writers of the WWPAC. 


Sam Ditshego [email protected]

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