AFRICA: Africa World Press Guide

compiled and edited by WorldViews

Who suffers? Who benefits?

Explanations for the economic crises that have wracked the nations of Africa in the post-colonial period are many and complex. Some contributing factors are internal, some are external in origin. One area of concern that has received increased attention in recent years is Africa's enormous external debt and programs sponsored by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to deal with the burden of that debt.

The resources in this chapter provide background on the issue of international debt in the Third World and in Africa. They describe the origins, dimensions, and characteristics of the foreign debt of Third World nations, identify those who benefit from the external debts of these nations, and examine the direct and negative impact of the debt burden on the citizens of Third World countries. The resources also describe alternative development strategies being devised and promoted by Africans and their s upporters in nongovernmental organizations elsewhere in the world. Particular attention is paid to international campaigns to challenge the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) and other policies advocated by the World Bank and IMF.

Third World debt

Susan George's A Fate Worse Than Debt: The World Financial Crisis and the Poor (1990) and Walden Bello's Dark Victory: The United States, Structural Adjustment and Global Poverty (1994) are good books to begin with for informed and accessibl e overviews of the international debt crisis. Two more popularly styled publications on Third World debt are Freedom from Debt: Peoples' Movements against the Debt (Culbertson 1991) and Third World Debt: The Lingering Crisis (Catholic Instit ute for International Relations 1991).

Concise and readable surveys of debt-related issues may be found in back issues of two popular magazines: "Debt: A Campaign Comic" (New Internationalist, no. 243, May 1993) and "Structural Adjustment: Deadly 'Development'" (The Global Advocat es Bulletin, no. 27, October 1994). References to additional resources are found in International Debt and the Third World (Nordquist 1989), a 64-page bibliography of about 500 books, articles, and government publications related to Third World debt.

Debt in Africa

Recommended introductory print resources on the debt crisis in Africa include

Books published by the Institute for African Alternatives (London), especially those in IFAA's Alternative Development Strategies for Africa series, offer uniformly challenging perspectives from African authors. The articles in Africa's Recovery in the 1990s: From Stagnation and Adjustment to Human Development (Cornia et al. 1992) are noteworthy for the policy alternatives they recommend for a long-term development strategy that features the redistribution of assets and expanded access to basic services.

Numerous published collections of essays cover the full range of debt-related issues in Africa. See, for example,


Various books examine the impact of the debt crisis and World Bank/IMF structural adjustment policies on different sectors of Africa's peoples and societies. See, for example,

The negative effects of structural adjustment policies on women are analyzed critically in

See also Women and Structural Adjustment, ZWRCN Bibliographies, no. 8 (Zimbabwe Women's Resource Center and Network 1994).

Country/regional studies

The Human Dimension of Africa's Persistent Economic Crisis (Adedeji et al. 1990) contains seven chapters that examine "country initiatives to sustain the human dimension in spite of the crisis." The countries profiled are: Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, the Sudan, Zambia, Madagascar, and Ghana.

For other country- and region-specific studies crisis, see:

Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire):
The World Bank and Structural Transformation in Developing Countries: The Case of Zaire (Leslie 1987).
"Adjustment in Egypt? The Political Economy of Reform." Review of African Political Economy, no. 60 (1994), pp. 201-213; The Mediterranean Debt Crescent (Henry 1996).
Adjusting Society: The World Bank, the IMF and Ghana (Brydon 1996); Technology and Enterprise Development: Ghana under Structural Adjustment (Lall et al. 1994).
Structural Adjustment and Environmental Linkages: A Case Study of Kenya (Richardson 1996).
See volume 2 of Aid and Power (Mosley et al. 1991), pp. 201-269.
The Mediterranean Debt Crescent (Henry 1996).
Peace Without Profit: How the IMF Blocks Rebuilding in Mozambique (Hanlon 1996).
Nigeria: The Politics of Adjustment and Democracy (Ihonvbere 1994); The Politics of Structural Adjustment in Nigeria (Olukoshi 1993).
Sierra Leone:
Chapter 6 in The African Debt Crisis (Parfitt and Riley 1989), pp. 126-147.
Sub-Saharan Africa:
Structural Adjustment and Socio-Economic Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (Gibbon and Olukoshi 1996).
Sudan's Debt Crisis (Brown 1990).
The Mediterranean Debt Crescent (Henry 1996).
Changing Uganda: The Dilemmas of Structural Adjustment and Revolutionary Change (Hansen and Twaddle 1991).
West Africa:
Structural Adjustment in West Africa (Olukoshi et al. 1994).
Structural Adjustment and the Working Poor in Zimbabwe (Gibbon 1995); Health and Structural Adjustment in Rural and Urban Zimbabwe (Bijlmakers et al. 1996).

World Bank and International Monetary Fund

Michael Barratt Brown's Africa's Choices: After Thirty Years of the World Bank (Brown 1996) is the best introduction to this topic. Also recommended is the two-volume set, Aid and Power: The World Bank and Policy-based Lending (Mosley et al. 1991), which presents a policy-based overview of the lending practices of the World Bank, with nine country case studies in volume 2.

The case for the success of World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) structural adjustment policies and practices in Africa is made most definitively in Adjustment in Africa: Reforms, Results, and the Road Ahead (World Bank 1994).

Critical analyses of World Bank/IMF involvement in Africa's debt crisis include

For a critical statement by African nongovernmental organizations, see "African NGOs Call for Change in International Monetary Fund and World Bank Policies," Third World Resurgence magazine, no. 49, September 1994.

50 Years Is Enough!

July 1994 marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank--the Bretton Woods Institutions (so-called because they were established in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in July 1944). Taking the 50th anni versary as their starting point, a diverse group of U.S. nongovernmental organizations launched the "50 Years Is Enough!" campaign in 1994 to marshall efforts to transform the IMF and the World Bank "into democratic, accountable institutions that foster s ustainable and people-centered development."

Background resources on the campaign and on the issues the campaign addresses are found in

For more information on the ongoing campaign, contact 50 Years Is Enough Network, 1025 Vermont Ave., NW, Ste. 300, Washington, DC 20005 USA. E-mail:

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