The main findings of a new World Bank study of the region that looks 30 years back and 30 years ahead
Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole has now witnessed almost a decade of falling per capita incomes, increasing hunger, and accelerating ecological degradation. The earlier progress made in social development is being eroded. Overall, Africans are almost as poor today as they were at independence in the 1960s. With almost half a billion people, Africa now has a total GDP equivalent to that of Belgium, which only has 10 million inhabitants. (Throughout this article, Africa is used synonymously with Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa and Namibia.)
Africa’s deepening crisis is characterized by low-yielding agriculture, uncompetitive industries, mounting debt, and deteriorating institutions. Food production has risen more slowly than population. Although industry grew roughly three times as fast as agriculture in the first decade of independence, the last few years have seen an alarming reversal in many African countries. With export volumes barely growing at all since 1970, Africa’s share in world markets has fallen by almost half.
This article is based on a longer study, Sub-Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Growth—a long-term perspective study, co-authored by Pierre Landell-Mills, Ramgopal Agarwala, and Stanley Please, and available from the World Bank Bookshop, Washington, DC 20433 USA. $12.95.
As Africa prepares for the 1990s and beyond, the time is opportune to devise a strategy for the next generation that will reverse Africa’s decline. This longer-term perspective was provided by a recently published report by World Bank staff (see box), which extensively involved African researchers, businessmen, and public officials, as well as representatives of the donor community. It builds on studies undertaken by the United Nations and African agencies.