AFTER three decades without significant improvements in national incomes or welfare—and at a time when citizens are being asked to make major sacrifices in the name of economic reform—Africans are increasingly aware of the need to articulate a new, well-defined vision for the future.
During the 1980s, African countries were beset by a series of short-term financial crises that focused governments’ attention on solving urgent and immediate problems. The implementation of economic adjustment programs and the need to achieve short-term financial stability took precedence over all else. By default, ambitious development objectives were mostly abandoned.
Toward the end of the 1980s, however, leaders began to recognize that excessive preoccupation with short-term issues had led to the neglect of measures essential for sustainable long-term improvements in national welfare. Consensus began to emerge within Africa on the need to take stock and plan for a better future. In April 1989, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African ministers of planning resolved to revitalize long-term development planning in the region. Eight months later, the World Bank published a report entitled Sub- Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Growth: Long-Term Perspective Study, which sketched out a strategy for economic recovery.
The key elements were:
• greater attention to human resources development;
• substantially increased levels of savings and investment;
• a much more supportive environment for private sector development;
• continued macroeconomic reforms, liberalizing prices, greater reliance on markets, and the achievement of sustainable public finance goals; and
• improved public management and greater efforts to build capacity.
In July 1990, the Maastricht Ministerial Conference of African and International Donor Governments adopted a resolution recommending the preparation of national long- term perspective studies (NLTPS). At that time, 15 countries declared their intention to prepare these plans, which are now in varying degrees of preparation—Cote d’lvoire, Gabon, and Mauritius are the most advanced, while eight others are just beginning. Progress has generally been slow, because the task is complex and the process is hard to manage. The UN Development Programme has earmarked $9.5 million for a 5-year regional NLTPS support project, with a team of experts already in place in Abidjan, Cote d’lvoire.