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75th Annual Summer Conference, August 10–13, 2006

To the Political:
Africa and the Developing World-Progress Questioned

Summary by Renee Richardson


Progress is the easy part – development is the toughest, deems ROBERT GREENHILL. After 60 years of failure and development in so many ways, a way to make genuine progress in Africa is that the region needs a new plan and a new paradigm as well. What seems as a typical multifaceted plan to eradicate a detrimental paradigm of poverty, oppression and political instability?

Greenhill took us through three points to do with progress:

Primarily – good news – development over the last 30 years; the challenge of development – income $1 to $100 a day most people earn around $1 a day, the cost of what we pay for our coffee. When looking at the challenge of development, one key measure in terms of economics is the critical dollar a day. In year 2000, slightly over 1.4 billion tried to live on under a dollar a day. Over time as people taking control of their own development there had been by 1990 a significant reduction by 26% but poverty was the same. UN’s goal is to have the rate of poverty by 2015 reduced to 13%. As of the year 2000, the percentage dropped to 19%. Looking forward in terms of projection, the curve is moving over to the right as key countries are accelerating the rate of growth. If we sustain our commitment we can actually reduce poverty to 10%. This is the Number 1 millennium development goal.

Life expectancy increased by 15 years in the African region. Good news you rarely hear about is that development is working and countries are indeed making significant progress. By the year 2000 Africa went from 11% to 35% of the most poor. In Asia, economic gains are expected to accelerate. In 2015 Africa will account for the majority of world poverty at 68%, an extraordinary challenge at a regional level in Africa. This notion is critical to look at gender and development – education/emancipation of women crucial to the development of the third world.

Continuing on a positive note, the dynamic today that may be reflected in the future is a different story. The emancipation of women – women as part of parliament has emerged. Building successful literacy programs in Africa. Successful democratic systems are being put into place. Democracy is the strongest it has ever been in history. Many countries have had full and free elections – including electing out governments. The role of women in democratic participation is fragile but growing. Africa today has some of the strongest economic growth; for example, Ghana is growing at 6–7%, leading to sustainable economic and social growth that not been seen in decades. Education levels are higher in Africa than ever before. 49% of those in school are girls. Eight countries have rigorous HIV prevention program. HIV AIDS infection rates are dropping, for example, in Botswana. Access to anti-retro viral drugs has been a tripling at a global and continental level. Frontline healthcare systems are reducing infant mortality rates by one third. In Tanzania, life expectancy is going up. Making progress based on the determination of today and the last 5 years.


  1. People of Africa have taken control of their own destiny. A significant increase from a low base and significant strides in civil society and freedom of the media.
  2. We, as donors, have had to take a different approach. Working together to decide on a development plan and how we can play a complimentary and harmonized role. We have adopted a different approach. NGOs and others are part of an annual review. Reflecting there own view of education not ours. There own system with a basket of funds provided by others is sustainable.
  3. Collectively learned from what has worked and what has failed. Social systems have also been adjusted. User fees in education systems that don’t yet value the importance of education so the elimination of user fees has been one of the major public policy improvements over the last 5 years. More-responsible governments working with funding and structure.
  4. Increase in funding, in a context of responsible governments. Canada announced its doubling to Africa between 2003 and 2009. G8 as a whole decided to double aid to Africa over a 5-year period. Canada has played a critical role. Parallel play to a much more coordinated approach.
  5. G8 this year $450 million in rebuilding healthcare systems, help build the underlying healthcare systems.

What are the challenges? Building on this progress….does not yet shift the massive increase of poverty because of legacies in the past. Only 10% have gone to secondary school. The role of girls and women in society is crucial to progress. How do we scale up the health interventions? How do we change our attitudes and build on success? Being able to put our attention to solve problems and build on successes, i.e., DRC. Recognize that Africa is not a case of hopeless charity but we are there because we are determined that we can help support and provide assistance based on what we can achieve.


ATUL KOHLI. How well have various parts of the developing world progressed over the decades? Why have some places done better? Emerging global context and what can outsiders do?

There is progress but it is uneven and the deeper message is that development in the end is a self-help project.

Patterns – what is our standard of judgement? Sustained growth and democracy.

East Asia – most successful growing rapidly and unsavory politics – authoritarian governments.

Africa – when you put Africa in a comparative context it comes across as the least successful; distribution has become worse than any part of the developing world, worse than Brazil.

Latin America – performance has been variable. Extreme inequalities.

South Asia – mostly sluggish growth and cultural inequalities.

Middle East – antiquated regimes, growth only in oil exports.

How do we make sense of this?

No answer is likely to be successfully persuasive.

Arguments Kohli rejects surround different regions have different cultures – reflected in patterns of development. Mainly reflect the degree to which these countries embrace markets and integrate into the global economy. Latin America has the most foreign investment and economic growth has been highly crisis ridden. Culture – market integration.

Progress circles around the effectiveness of a country’s government. Next, the characterization of failed states, how do governments forge links with the private sector. Korean success what build on the back of oppressed women workers. Governments mobilized whole societies to create growth as if they were fighting a war. Mobilized nationalism.

Global context of development – conventional thinking is that so called globalization is a progressive force…embrace and you shall develop….Kohli argues against the fact that global context has become more oppressive over the past 35 years. Stunning fact is that on the whole average growth rates from 1950–80 were higher than 2005. Import substitution has not turned out that way. The last 25 years have been worse for developing worlds because they have less room to manoeuvre. Capacity to manage their specific fate is not as defined as it used to be. Since 1985 structural adjustment was the buzzword on how to create prosperity in the developing world. Third world elites are responsible for things going in their own parts of the world. Character of elites has been changing in the developing world. Fewer nationalist leaders, who are more willing to make alliances with outside actors; i.e., Mexico. The United States is much more aggressive; Canada is at the forefront. Much of the drama for development is likely to be driven by internal efforts of the developing world…outsiders may not be helpful with the exception of Canada.


ZINE MAGUBANE sees progress as a narrative. Can we separate the idea of progress from the milieu of imperialist expansion? How do we develop a meaningful political process in societies that were dismantled by the West and how this effects Africa?

Hegel – declared “an unhistorical continent” and progress did not and could not happen in Africa. We need to assess the negative standard at which progress could be measured.

Walter Rodney – the development of underdevelopment. Obfuscate social progress and make it a function of character traits. Displace progress from the social realm and make it a character of wealth. The displacement of the biological narrative and the narrative of death and destruction has been displaced on the African region and the limited successes are disregarded.

We need to think about the idea of progress seriously and that the way racism functions is not simply a deviation from a fundamental sound progress but has shaped and animated the idea of progress in every term. We have to think about the fact that the two projects went hand in hand. In the future, try to deal productively with what emerges when we place history at the center of our analysis. We are living in a different type of economic and political climate. Transition states have to follow a global agenda. At the moment the possibilities to affirm a different vision have been markedly curtailed. South Africa has no choice but to conform to the capitalist powers giving them no choice. The imperatives for the global economic order have a clear impact and are being articulated on the post-aggressive regime. What constitutes the rights of a global individual? In actuality the imperatives of globalized capitalization have had the same effects as anywhere else. States have become less able to assume an interventionist agenda.

We’re seeing a third way perspective coming slowly into being. The ideological changes happening on the continent and how this tells us of forging a new idea of what progress can be. An African renaissance seeks to bring together what in the past – idea of political autonomy. There needs to be new found mutually exclusive objectives instead of objectives of Africa according to the West. Starting primarily with regulation of finance and eradication of debt. Women are becoming such an important agent for progress. Liberia has Africa’s first elected president and women hold at least 30% of South Africa and Mozambique. Overcome racial and gender stereotypes. Agents of progress in Africa today were the ones who were left out of the narrative of progress. How has the West defined progress and chart a new course – economic and political rights, eradication of competition and redefining who the agents of progress are? Redefining freedom, democracy and progress; Africa is now in a position to set an example from the West.


Q1 – Astonishing statistics about the difference in growth rates 1950–80 vs. 1980–2005. What is the basis of these statistics and can these stats be outdated?

Kohli – The data exercise has been criticized. Published in World Development and all the stats are online through their website. The decline of growth rate through 1980 onwards because 1980s was the lost decade of development in the 1990s they started doing a little better others the progress is uneven. 2005 encapsulates a fair amount of variation but 1980s was broadly the time of import substitution. 1980 onward was when structural adjustment was embraced. You need not more nuance and therefore things get complicated.

Q2 – The Doha trade talks and what is your opinion on those imminent talks?

Panel – the likely collapse of Doha development has been criticized. My expectation is more and more developing countries will come to the realization that multilateral trade talks will provide opportunities for export trade growth. Forces between the two is much more difficult. No prediction as to what will actually end up happening but my sense is well structured and well-executed international trade agreement would be a tremendous help especially for agricultural producers.

Q3 – Canada’s role in world development – Canada’s role in Haiti with respect to Aristide. Canada’s lack of development within Canada’s native communities in which development is taken place.

Greenhill – During cold war a lot of development used by countries in terms of the role today many countries use the Paris declaration where developing countries got together to find their own path to progress. We need to make sure that we increase aid and use it for the ultimate benefit. US seen not as engaged. Europe is the global superpower in development today. Haiti: Canada has played a progressive role for the past 40 years. Look at the interim period after Aristide left and the new presidential election. Clear that the Haitian government appreciates the role Canada plays. The people of Haiti see Canada as honest, capable and committed. Reinforce the legitimacy of racist domination.

Q4 – Canadian policy in Haiti and the role of the last election – Question the content of these so called free and fair elections.

Greenhill – Recent election was considered free and fair. Haiti has been through a very challenging period. Now is the best opportunity for political reconciliation. Try to change the downward vicious cycle of violence and degradation that leads to more misery and more violence. Bring in democratic elected government and focus on the key social and economic needs for the country. That sounds normal but would be a historical breakthrough in Haiti. Five-year $5 million Canadian contributions to Haiti. We believe in the potential of civil society in Haiti. We are there for the long term, the best we can do, very important role and I am personally committed to make sure that we can contribute to making Haiti a prosperous country in the America’s. The global community is not in any position to intervene in Haiti. There is much building that needs to take place in the next years.

Q5 – Africa’s progress – what has worked and what has failed? Have we actually changed and have we really learned from our mistakes?

Greenhill – I would argue that we have learned from our past successes. It has been done imperfectly but there has been a determined attempt but ultimately it is the country itself that is in charge of its development destiny. Been a big push on getting the social structures right. Increasingly, we’re building educational institutions, health care so that people can determine how they want to move forward. Nature quite different now than it has in the past. I am sure there will be failures in the future but overall Africa has great ownership of its progress than ever before.

Q6 – Comment briefly on the marriage between economics and development. Why the emphasis on growth and income?

Magubane – it is measurable. We are trying to push forward and to think through development of having more components than just economics. What we are seeing here is an expansion beyond the economic; e.g., women.

Kohli – Trouble with aid is that it is both real and not – in a way that welfare states used to be. Foreign aid in a sense it is meant to help but it is also meant to maintain a global order. Domination becomes the agenda. What has happened lately is a growing division – who is going to do dominate and what is legitimate?

Greenhill – Development goals are reducing infant mortality, improving access to primary education and moving environmental issues. The key aspects of social and economic development; they don’t note human rights. Not just economics. Are people free to express themselves without fear of oppression? Society wouldn’t consider itself developed and in that sense we are all developing countries. Social progress without economic progress tends to be unsustainable and that is the key issue – effective distribution. 50% of food aid is coming from Canada and the other is bought in the appropriate regional markets so we are supporting food production in other parts of the region, so then it is not just where we are spending but essentially how we are spending it.

Q7 – Is it possible to promote democracy considering that it is inevitably publicized in places such as Morocco where there are other interests?

Magubane – You can’t take democracy as a concept outside history. Democracy is ideologically loaded; it is a slow and fitful process. What you are seeing is a democratic groundswell. It is interesting to observe the critique bubbling up from civil society.

Q8 – Global context – what impact growing oil needs are having on the democratic progress in oil rich countries?

Kholi – Would we have gone into Iraq if the main exports were widgets? We would not be in there unless there oil wealth. Oil wealth is a profoundly important issue for balance of powers. Oil is critical in understanding which countries we are worried about, whether they are dictators or democratic.

Q9 – Issue of colonialism – how much of an impact of the legacy since colonization?

Magubane – Different colonial powers have different ways of operating. They left different types of infrastructure behind; we can’t deny those things. At the end of the day these are not nearly as important as the global system of domination.

Kohli – It is important to understand colonialism. Japanese colonies in Korea left a very different legacy than British in India. British impact on Nigeria – impact is quite different.

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